The 2016 Singapore Motorshow concluded back on the 17th of January 2016, and the community was ablaze with comments questioning the significance and quality of the show, but most importantly its necessity. In a world where anyone armed with internet connectivity can have their voices heard, many opinions are no longer marginalized to the sidelines, some even taking centre stage.
Here are the top comments I gathered either during conversations I had with people at the show (both public visitors and participating companies), or spotted on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
*The comments are not ranked in any particular order.
Comment 1: “There were too many models accompanying the cars, distracting would-be car buyers and other visitors who are mostly interested in cars”.
Comment 2: “Some of the models are really not that pretty and should not be casted for the purpose of a motor show”.
My opinion: Let us be honest, it would almost be blasphemous for good looking cars (and bikes) not be accompanied by good looking talents at a motor show. Some of the most reputable motor shows around the world have good looking talents complement the cars or products they represent. Granted, most will prefer a lesser quantity and better quality approach, we do too! That said, quality of the talents should not be determined only by appearances, figures or attires, but also by how presentable and knowledgeable they are with the brand/company they represent. Some (but definitely not all) of the models I spoke to at the show were actually highly efficient in sharing whatever new car or product they represented, and not just stand around looking pretty.
In most cases, it is not just sex appeal that the local dealers may wish to express, the hired talents also serve as an additional tool in the company’s charm-offensive toolbox. The more smiling faces there are, the nicer the environment, the more relaxed potential car buyers may be.
Finally, be nice. Many of the talents present, alongside the staff from the various companies spent most of their time (if not the entire time) standing, smiling and greeting. Visitors should have the decency to appreciate their effort and work in trying to make the show a good and enjoyable one.
Comment 3: “There are not enough concept cars displayed to make the show attractive to both local and regional car enthusiasts”.
Comment 4: “There should be more global or at least regional cars unveiled and premiered, and not just local launches”.
My opinion: We need to understand and realise just how small the Singaporean market really is, before we make assumptions or raise expectations. Singapore today, has acheived more than anyone could have earlier predicted, but that is not to say that the economy, infrastructure and industry as a whole is bulletproof and immune to domestic, regional and global situations. In land-sparse Singapore, even if we remove the import tax and Certificate of Entitlement (COE) when purchasing a car, the domestic consumption ability will still be significantly lower than that of a larger country such as Malaysia, Thailand or even the Philippines and Myanmar.
Furthermore, according to Land Transport Authority (LTA) figures, new car registration has plummeted in the past 10 years, with over 117,000 registered in 2006 compared to under 29,000 registered in 2014 (complete list in our image gallery below). This fact alongside other realities such as fluctuating oil prices, COEs and other taxes determines the spending power of local dealers and their principles. It is basic math, if a company generates more revenue, it will be able to increase its expenses for things such as advertising and marketing. Local dealers are required on the most part, to abide by and follow the directions dictated by their principles/manufacturers. Thus said, if the domestic market is small or weak, the focus and prioritisation will be limited.
While it is not unheard of though extremely rare, selecting Singapore as a locale for world premieres will not make sense. Concept cars and world premieres are best unveiled in markets that have both siginificant domestic strengths as well as regional/international appeal. Thus while the purchasing power per capita of Singaporeans is generally high, the total number is small. An example can be gauged from the number of visitors at the shows (assuming organisers do not double-click-the-clicker and count re-entries) : This year’s Singapore Motorshow attracted an impressive 58,000 visitors, but the 2015 Shanghai Motor Show attracted over 928,000 visitors while the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show attracted over 931,000. Motor shows such as these, alongside traditional shows like Geneva attract not just large numbers of visitors, but industry leaders as well, thus elevating the importance of their shows. Aside from attracting high volumes of visitors and industry leaders, many successful motor shows also incorporate a trade fair element to the show, as well as seminars and workshops, all in sync to create a better and more effective show year on year. Most of these shows are therefore geared towards marketing and presentating existing models, unveiling new cars and also measuring the feedback of concept cars and ideas.
By far the most successful show in terms of sheer number of visitors will have to be Bangkok, with almost 1.8 million visitors in 2014! While the format of the Bankok motor show differs in the sense that it focuses on actually selling cars to the general public, the abovementioned factors are still applicable as Thailand is also a preferred place for manufacturing.
Finally, the event itself needs to be one capable of attracting the right crowds, as well as relevant media platforms with high and far-reaching visibility (such as the Geneva, Frankfurt or Shanghai), which I will elaborate on further in this article.
We can however, hope that the Singapore Motorshow will sustain itself and grow to rival that of other regional shows!
Comment 5: “The organisers seem to care more about the local car dealers who have booths at the show, while the smaller participanting parts and accessories companies seem to be sidelined”.
Comment 6: “The local car dealers participating at the show seem to be focused on selling cars”.
My opinion: Firstly, the organisers are running a business-oriented event, which means its primary objective will be to generate revenue. Events such as these generate revenue from three main streams, namely: brand/company participation; ticket sales and sponsorships. Taking care of higher valued clients is a norm in business, as they potentially generate the largest influx of revenue.
Having said that, unlike a rock concert or symphony orchestra where the performing artists gel together as a single entity, a motor show requires multiple performers such as various competing brands to come together. This point is important as it signifies how cooperative (or uncooperative) the industry is. Major shows around the world see both the automotive manufacturers and the tuner/aftermarket industry come together for the collective good, whereas here in Singapore, there is a general dissociation between the two. Take the Geneva International Motor Show or Tokyo Auto Salon for example, where car manufacturers have booths side-by-side with tuner/aftermarket brands. This cohesiveness strengthens the industry as a whole and attracts a very wide range of visitors, all sharing an intrinsically intertwined passion.
It is really just a cycle, attract the right participating brands with a likeminded mentality and the crowds will come, once the crowds come, the sponsorships will as well. It goes without saying that organisers need to manage their attitudes towards their clients, and balance how they are treated, regardless of their perceived value. Treat the smaller businesses with the same respect and mindset as the larger companies, and you will have retained them for future events.
While it is a pity to see some of the smaller companies (comparative to the local car dealers) that have participated in last or this year’s event no longer participating due to this issue, I for one hope that the organising committee will review both their conduct and attitude to ensure a better event in the years to come.
Secondly, it will not be right to fault the local car dealers participating at the show for focusing their objective on sales. As briefly mentioned earlier, motor shows are organised differently and serve a variety of purpose. The Singapore Motorshow is clearly geared towards encourging consumerism, vital to the automotive industry and the country’s economy. This trickle down effect also affects peripheral businesses as well, such as independant workshops, component distributors, gas stations, etc…
Let me put it in simple terms, if you are interested in purchasing a car or plan to do so in time to come, would it not be easier for you to visit a single show to see what all the local dealers have to offer? Frankly speaking, it seems a logical option to me, instead of travelling to various showrooms dotted around the island. Furthermore, packing various (competiting) dealers in the same hall encourages competitive pricing, which usually translates to better deals for car buyers. This is of course, only applicable if the brand you are looking for is present at the show
Comment 7: “There were extremely few super or exotic cars on display”.
Comment 8: “Not all the brands were present at the show”.
My opinion: As mentioned above, a good motor show is capable of attracting all the major marques, important industry leaders, effective medias and thus ultimately, throngs of visitors. It is clear that the Singapore Motorshow is not designed to rival international motor shows such as Geneva, Frankfurt or Shanghai, instead it adopts the format akin to that of Bangkok with sales prioritised. That means the event organisers will need to first understand what the market needs and wants, and in doing so assist the various local dealers in strategising. By saying this, it also hints that the local motor show will not be capable of attracting some of the elite marques such as Ferrari, Lamborghini or Aston Martin. While it goes without saying that super and exotic cars at motor shows will indeed add flavour to the pot, these brands do not usually rely on motor shows for sales.
*above image from Auto China – Shanghai International Motor Show
Comment 9: “The organisers of the Singapore Motorshow do not seem to have a filtration system for media”.
My opinion: On this matter I agree entirely! Let us take ourselves (9tro) as an example. We spent the past seven years focused on improving our skills, expertise and networks, as well as acquiring experiences and attracting industry-leading talents. Furthermore, we worked hard to build up a loyal fanbase but above all else, credibility. When we travel around the world for motor shows, our credibility is what differentiates us from hobbyists and accreditates us to be officially recognised. Let me be clear that I mean absolutely no disrespect towards the hobbyists or enthusiats who are just starting out in the automotive media industry, many in fact are friends of mine and some are armed with better skills than me! Having said that, a certain line needs to be drawn between those who exploit having a Facebook Page or website/blog to gain free access, versus those who are truly passionate and sincere about playing a role.
This leads me to the next point about how there were some who visited the show purely for the models. In my opinion, there is nothing fundamentally wrong about visitors going to a motor show for varying reasons. While I cannot substantiate this, I am most certain that some visited the show for other reasons as well, such as experiencing a joy ride with Russ Swift, checking out alternative insurance packages, or even meeting MediaCorp artistes. It does not matter what the media’s purpose of visit is, what matters most is that the show is properly documented and shared.
We did however, hear a complaint from one of the participating tuner/aftermarket companies that when their models informed a media pass holding photographer that they were done for the day, he spewed nasty remarks at them, even calling them ‘b*tches’. We later found out that the photographer works for Lian He Zao Bao, a respected Chinese newspaper publication from the Singapore Press Holdings.
As journalists, there is a solemn responsibility associated with the ‘media badge/tag’ we wear, and those who fail to respect it should not be awarded with one.
Conclusion: Does Singapore need a motor show and is it viable??
My opinion: Yes we do. As I have elaborated above, having a motor show allows for consumers to enjoy competitive pricing as each local dealer aims to out-shine and out-sell their competitors. Ultimately, it should be the buyers who reap in the most benefits.
Likewise, an annual motor show allows for companies to better structure and strategise their annual budgets, itineraries, marketing and promotions. While this may not necessarily impact the uniquely-Singaporean COE system, it may eventually help to balance it out as the market can be a tad more predictable. In the weeks leading up to the Bangkok Motor Show for example, car sales in Thailand will take a slight dip as both consumers and dealers prepare in anticipation of the upcoming show where the best promotions are offered.
On a personal perspective, I feel that the local organisers should focus on the aftermarket and spare-parts industry with the same levels of professionalism, attention and support given to the local car dealers. This was not well experienced in the 2014 and 2015 events. The periphery industry is made up of businesses such as various workshops that offer different skills and expertise; distributors of replacement components and performance parts; as well as tyre, lubricant, and other service-providing companies.
Ultimately, the goals and targets should be the same, for the event to draw in all the relevant players. To be the conductor of a symphony orchestra where the performing artists gel together as a single entity, where the industry may benefit as a whole.