The British International Motor Show is the latest victim of the economic downturn

by Michael Smith

London, March 2009: The British International Motor Show has been cancelled in a move that organisers say was “almost inevitable” in current economic conditions.

The event, traditionally organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and IMIE, has been running for more than a century, attracting more than 900,000 visitors to Birmingham’s NEC at the peak of its popularity in 1978.

However, numbers dropped in the ‘90s. A move to London’s Excel saw attendance increase slightly in 2008 to more than 470,000, but a number of no-shows from the big brands signalled the troubles to come.

SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt says: “The global credit crunch has placed the automotive sector under unique pressure and has created a level of uncertainty that deters manufacturers from committing to large-scale, international events.”

Globally, motor shows are struggling, with Porsche, Ferrari, Land Rover, Rolls-Royce and Nissan absent from the 2009 Detroit Auto Show.

What a lot of the venue companies do not, however, seem to realize is that it is not just the fact that the recession is biting that sees the big names in the industry drop out of trade fairs and shows; the reason is that in Britain the prices are just so much higher than in other parts of Europe, including places such as Germany.

British industry has a bad habit, in recent years, and not just in the most recent years, to price itself out of the market, in Europe and globally. The same is true for consumer pricing. Many goods can be obtained cheaper in other parts of Europe and let us not even start talking about train travel and public transport in general. Here Britain leads – a rather sad lead though – as being the most expensive country of all EU member states as far as rail and public transport fares are concerned.

Are we still wondering why we are in dire straights? Maybe the depression in which we are now will bring us all to our senses once again. One can but hope.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009