South African Festival of Motoring fires up new era for motor shows

13 September, 2016

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The inaugural South African Festival of Motoring, held at the iconic Kyalami race track, near Johannesburg, certainly got the adrenalin pumping and the revs rising as it heralded the beginning of a new era of global interactive motor shows. The event, which was organised by Sandton-based SA Shows Messe Frankfurt, took place over five days from 31 August - 04 September and attracted more than 50 000 visitors.


The Festival of Motoring was a totally new concept for South Africa's official motor show, which was known previously as the Johannesburg International Motor Show when it was last staged over 11 days at the Johannesburg Expo Centre in 2013.


"There has been a general fall-off in interest and attendance at traditional - mainly static - motor shows all over the world in recent years so the SA Shows Messe Frankfurt team, in conjunction with members of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA), re-imagined an all new event which we called the South African Festival of motoring," explained the CEO of SA Shows Messe Frankfurt, Konstantin von Vieregge.


"We decided we would combine aspects of a traditional show with the interactivity that characterises a pulsating event such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed which is held annually in the United Kingdom. In fact, we even had representatives from the Goodwood event as observers at the festival. There were also senior executives from several Messe Frankfurt subsidiaries present who are interested in arranging similar events in their countries under the new Messe Frankfurt brand name Days on Wheels," added Von Vieregge.


"One of the most important aspects of a motor show or related event is brand building and this is where I believe the new concept proved a winner because it attracted younger visitors and the exhibitors also appreciated the diverse demographic mix," said Von Vieregge.


"We were particularly pleased with the large number of families who visited the show. For instance on Saturday and Sunday we saw one child for every three adults coming through the gates, which is a fantastic ratio for a motor industry-related event. This gave a strong indication of the shift from a business-oriented exhibition to a true consumer event. Going forward we will enhance the child-related activities to further pay tribute to this welcome trend," commented the CEO the organising company.


The highlight of the event for many of the visitors was the opportunity to drive standard cars around the Kyalami circuit, which has just been totally revamped, or to go as passengers for "hot laps" in high performance or acing cars with professional drivers at the wheel.


Mercedes-Benz lifted the bar at the beginning of the event by having former Grand Prix winner, David Coulthard, available to chauffeur selected guests around the track at high speed in an AMG GT3 sports car, while many well-known local drivers performed a similar service for excited visitors for the full duration of the show.


Well known South African motorsportsman Terence Marsh summed up the "hot lap" experience when he said: "I can honestly say that I have never been so disappointed to finish a day's work and realise that our time in the 2017 Nissan GT-R was up.


"After five days, more than 12 hours of seat time, driving more than 1 100 km around the new Kyalami circuit and taking more than 150 guests in my GT-R - I can honestly say that it ranks up there with some of my best experiences ever.


"We covered more than over 4 500 km in four Nissan GT-Rs and gave 700 guests the ride of a lifetime, while using only one set of standard production tyres per car," concluded Marsh.


Many of the participating companies took the opportunity of launching new products at the show, several of them aimed at the growing performance car market. These included the BMW M6 GT3, M3 30 Year Special Edition, M4 GTS, Jaguar F-Type SVR, Nissan GT-R, while Mercedes-Benz showcased a number of its AMG models.


Other launches ranged from the Range Rover Evoque Convertible to an extension of the budget Datsun Go range, Volkswagen focussed on the new Tiguan SUV while Toyota displayed an additional Etios model, the Sprint, as well as several product enhancements. Toyota also provided a sneak audio-visual preview of its futuristically-styled C-HR (Coupe High Rider) compact SUV which only arrives in South Arica in February.


Many of the exhibitors thought out of the box when developing their plans for experiential activities and these included offering activities such as sliding down a slope of snow on the Volkswagen stand to going up a steep custom-built ramp in a four-wheel drive at the Toyota stand.


Toyota made international headlines in the motorsport world when it unveiled its radical, two-wheel drive Hilux Evo which will contest the 2017 Dakar Rally. It was also announced that two-time Dakar Rally winner, Nasser Al-Attiyah, of Qatar, and his French co-driver, Matthieu Baumel, will make up a three-car team with local drivers Giniel de Villiers and Leeroy Poulter.


One of the features of this inaugural Festival of Motoring was the celebration of 120 years since the first motor car arrived in South Africa. To this end there were more than 100 exotic supercars and collectable classic models on show.


The Festival of Motoring provided an ideal venue for the important, biennial CAR Conference for the motor industry it was well-attended and had top rank speakers.


SA Shows Messe Frankfurt also used the opportunity to launch Automechanika Johannesburg 2017 which will take place at Expo Centre from September 27-30 where it will be co-located with three other shows; Futuroad (commercial vehicles), Scalex (logistics) and REIFEN (tyres).


"Staging the SA Festival of Motoring for the first time was a challenge and provided a steep learning curve, but we are confident we can build on this recipe and improve on the concept in the future. In fact we have already provisionally reserved the dates 30 August - 3 September and the Kyalami venue for the next show in 2017 which will be presented under the new Days on Wheels banner," concluded Von Vieregge.