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Jhb show - our thoughts

2008-11-05 07:18
A huge coup for JIMS was the world launch of the M

A huge coup for JIMS was the world launch of the Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG Black Series. Awesomely impressive car, but not our show stopper though…

Lance Branquinho

Video's: Supercars
           AMG Black Series

After 72 hours of lugging around camera equipment, ogling supercars and female promotion "consultants" Wheels24 takes stock of the Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS).

Hosting a large trade exhibition whilst the global economy is on the cusp of seemingly inexorable decline seems akin to Soap Opera folly. Despite the implosion of the global auto market there was still plenty of neat kit on display.

Three key themes germinated from the days Wheels24 spent canvassing opinion from industry leaders and the public.

Firstly, South Africa must have one of the most lopsided retail auto markets around.

Where else do you find a R30 million Koenigsegg sharing display space with a Citi Golf only 30m away? Though the general retail sales landscape resembles the Somme in 1916, supercar displays abounded with Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari and all manner of exotica on show.

Secondly, the Chinese are learning – fast.

As I walked down to the nether regions of the outer display halls I passed the Kia Soul. A neat little car, with correct proportions, a well packaged interior and general air of quality, it represents something nearly inconceivable for Korean cars of a decade ago.

Then I stumbled upon the Chinese displays.

Okay, the cars are scandalous copyright infringements. The GWM Florid is a Yaris clone from the front and Swift copy from the rear, and the interior materials are horrid, whilst the Cowtry (where do they get these names?) has ludicrous panel gaps, but decent Mitsubishi-sourced power and sliding doors for seamless MPV access.

Inside the Chinese cars are loaded with kit, and I stood there and wondered just how long it was going to take them to reconcile build quality with copycat design and find their own fusion – such has been the case with the Koreans…

Thirdly, South Africa needs better fuel: now.

I am not going to brandish my Machiavellian intent here, but whoever promises better quality diesel fuel should have your vote during the 2009 election.

Many company executives and engineers admitted the only thing keeping the latest European and Japanese market engine technology from coming here was the putrid diesel quality. Forget about 50ppm as the threshold - these guys are talking of 20ppm…

JIMS gave the industry an opportunity to put on a brave face as it attempts to navigate through a credit crisis, chronic oversupply and unstable oil prices.

Here is a list of our highlights and low lights

Best concept car display: The disarmingly cute Suzuki X-Head looks like a miniature Land Rover 101 forward control.

Though small in dimensions, it has huge presence – the green hue no doubt helped – and the interior and exterior design is both outlandish and feasible.  Featuring a 1.4l engine and all-wheel drive we hope is comes to production.

Best unveiling: Ford and GM both went all out. AMG made us close our eyes and Alfa Romeo had a radical dancing couple on display.

Nobody though, could trounce Audi’s stroke of genius by having three of South Africa’s most attractive women unveil its cars.

Lee-Anne Liebenberg (RS6), Tracey McGregor (Q5) and Minki Visser (S3 Sportback) were stylish and glamorous, and despite Audi not being able to complete its all-white new model unveiling (the RS6 was black) it effortlessly stole the show.

Show flopper: I am surely going to be castigated for saying this, but the Koenigsegg was not the event it could have been.

If you’re going to have a carbon-fibre, 700-and-something-kW supercar on display, you could perhaps arrange a proper lighting display to highlight it? No?

In the dark display hall it simply disappeared without proper lighting, the only reminder of its presence being a few haphazard throttle blips every couple of hours or so.

Best kept secret: It was hardly a new car, but Ford had a Ranger double cab on display with all manner of aftermarket suspension and bullbar paraphernalia in place.

Allegedly it was to test public opinion. We think the market for comprehensively factory-accessorised (and guaranteed) 4X4 double cabs is a vast, unexplored market place.

Show stopper: Kudos must go to Mercedes-Benz for starting up the Black Series SL and driving it into public view.

A fixed roofed SL might be an oddity to some, but the package is so purely conceived, so dramatically styled, one could not help being taken in by the moment.

The show stopper of JIMS 2008 though, was the Nissan GT-R. It had a crowd milling around it perpetually.

Its appeal spanned the generation gap too. GT4 gamers in their teens and 50 year olds - reliving Datsun SSS memories of their youth - all went misty eyed in its presence.

A manager from one German manufacturer (who boasts a significant line of proven performance cars in its portfolio) strolled up, took one look at the GT-R and to a Nissan employee, murmured, “If I could take one car home from this show…”

Best show babes: A ubiquitous aesthetic highlight, all were fetching, though some more technically literate than others.

Audi’s show babes were particularly stylish, Honda’s quite well versed in the details of their products on display and Chrysler’s very engaging.



Jhb video: Honda Jazz

2008-11-05 10:56

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