Motor show news – 25 May 17:00

25 May 2004 #SMMT News

  • Government waging war on motorists, says Howard
  • Show-time go-time says industry boss
  • Vauxhall’s VXR Performance Premium

  • Accelerating fortunes of British sports cars
  • Gail Porter, ambassador for Auto Trader
  • Evo Magazine presents record breaker
  • Hyundai support young chefs with Gordon Ramsay

Government waging war on motorists, says Howard

Leader of the Opposition Michael Howard sees a direct parallel between the government’s attitude towards motorists and the plot of the Motropolis Live Action Arena at The Sunday Times Motor Show Live.

The show’s storyline depicts a futuristic world in which the forces of authority and beaurocracy have taken the enjoyment out of motoring.

‘This government has waged war on the motorist for many years,’ said Howard. ‘We see it in their attitude to speed cameras, which are used to raise money rather than for safety. There’s no doubt that the government have got it in for the motorist,’ he added.

Commenting on Ford’s claim that the cost of European legislation could add Euros 5,000 to the cost of a new car by 2008, Howard said: ‘Too many rules and regulations come out from Brussels, many without proper justification. The consequence is that British business becomes less competitive.’

Howard added that he had been impressed by the progressive new models that he had seen when touring the show and that he had seen some ‘wonderfully exciting cars’. Earlier, Howard visited the Honda stand where he found time to get the autograph of Britain’s leading Formula 1 star Jenson Button – for his driver’s wife!

Show-time go time says industry boss

Tod Evans, president of the SMMT, is ‘gob-smacked’ at the interactive nature of The Sunday Times Motor Show Live and bullish about attracting an audience of 600,000 people to the NEC spectacular.

After first hand experience of the various innovative attractions, including the 4×4 driving course, Evans said: ‘Cynics would expect me to be enthusiastic but after first hand experience I would have no hesitation in recommending to my parents and their kids to come along.’

He added: ‘Our research about why DIY, gardening, cookery and ski shows attract more people said they wanted to be able to feel and demonstrate the brands. That is what we are achieving here and I was gob-smacked about what the consumer will be able to enjoy. It is no longer just cars on carpets.’

Evans claimed the 100,000 advanced ticket sales were a good basis for hitting the target of bringing 600,000 people to the show. Evans also added that Birmingham had become the natural home for a British show.

Vauxhall’s VXR performance premium

Vauxhall’s focus on high-performance variants across its range will only generate around 5,000 sales a year, but Kevin Wale, the company’s chairman believes the VXR branding will move the brand’s image up several notches.

Wale, who was instrumental in sustaining the sporting heritage of General Motors’ Australian brand, Holden said: ‘The VXR penetration will vary from model to model but should work out at between one to three per cent across our ranges. The package has taken a couple of years to put together and I am confident it will be a major marketing asset.’

The most expensive VXR model will be the 5.7-litre V8 Holden-derived Monaro coupe which will retail at £35,595, but Wale admitted that the VXR price range could climb as high as £40,000 for ‘say a limited 50-car unique production run.’

Agilas and Merivas are unlikely to get the VXR treatment, which involves cosmetic and tuning enhancements, including tuning exhausts to generate the correct engine note.

Vauxhall’s chairman was also upbeat about the prospects of a larger mid-engined sports car, the Lightning, joining the VX220 roadster in the brand’s two-seater line up. It would be sourced from the US and based on the Pontiac Solstice two-seater.

Wale said: ‘There is a great deal of energy within GM being spent on making it happen. The platform is available, there are great designs so we want to bring it all together.’

Meanwhile the less overt but style conscious Tigra coupe/cabriolet is expected to outstrip demand when it reaches showrooms in September.

More than 200 motorists have offered deposits for the car, priced between £13,750 and £15,750, before the official order book opened yesterday. Vauxhall is expecting to sell 5,000 French-built Tigras a year.

Wale admitted: ‘I think Tigra volumes will exceed expectations. People should come to the show to see it live because it hits the spot. Dealers are a pretty blasé bunch but when we showed it to them recently we virtually had to drag them away.’

The Tigra is being built by specialist French coachbuilder Heuliez in Cerizay and will use a variety of engines from 1.4 to 1.8-litres.

The accelerating fortunes of British sports cars

Among the wealth of new car launches at The Sunday Times Motor Show Live, new models from small British independents are making a positive statement that good times lie ahead.

Morgan, Noble and Marcos Engineering all unveiled new sports models on press day, with a common message; when it comes to niche high performance cars Brittan is second to none.

Overseas markets are finding the allure of British bespoke sports cars more and more to their liking. The USA, Europe and Australia continue to demonstrate their desire for British style and sophistication as major export markets.

Morgan in particular is finding strong demand for it’s new Aero 8, which has already pulled in orders in the US following shows in Los Angeles and New York. Actor Nicholas Cage liked the car so much he bought one on the stand at the LA show.

Noble too is in the grip of a US lead boom, supplying bodies and chassis via partners to penetrate the market.

However, it’s at home in the UK where the majority of sales are still made, and all three marques acknowledge that their ability to take a vehicle from the drawing board to the road in record time gives them a real edge over some of their global competitors.

As Noble’s Simon Hucknall says: ‘Flexibility is crucial in this part of the market. We’re very hands on in our development and testing, and can move quickly. British invention and creativity is also highly regarded throughout the globe.’ Noble’s new M14 sports car, unveiled at the show, is evidence of this approach.

Competitive pricing also boosts driver appeal, with entry costs for specialist sports cars enticing drivers who fancy a step up to something new and different. Customers also value the kudos that driving a British sports car endows – it’s a small and exclusive club.

A resurgence in interest in the British sports car is also impacting on business. Morgan is aiming to make around 750 cars per year according to spokesperson David Dowse: ‘The introduction of new models and a burgeoning US market is very positive for us’ he says. ‘It helps considerably that advance order books enable companies of our scale to plan production a good 18 months or so ahead.’

As well as revealing their new TSO Roadster, Marcos announced that it is expanding its operation with new facilities in Kenilworth, following a strategic alliance with Prodrive. The move provides Marcos with a 1.5 mile high performance circuit for testing.

Gail Porter, new face of Auto Trader

Gail Porter, the ambassador for Auto Trader, joins the magazine at their stand at The Sunday Times Motor Show Live. As the new face of the magazine, Porter will be involved in further publicity throughout the year.

Evo Magazine unveiled a record breaking car today at The Sunday Times Motor Show Live. The Koenigsegg CC8s was launched on the UK market from the magazine’s stand. The super car has received critical acclaim, including recognition as the most powerful production car available (Guinness Book of Records 2004) in 655 bhp guise, and the fastest car ever driven by Top Gear.

Hyundai supports Gordon Ramsay scholar

Gordan Ramsay, renowned celebrity chef teamed up with Hyundai at The Sunday Times Motor Show Live to announce Hyundai’s involvement with his scholar awards.

The awards were created by Gordon to encourage and recognise the talents of young cooks from colleges across the UK. The awards makes it possible for catering students to gain valuable experience in some of the best kitchens in the world. Students compete against each other on a regional level before competing head to head in national heats.

The winning scholar stands to win a cash prize, the opportunity to work alongside Gordon in his kitchen and a stylish Hyundai Getz.

Says Ramsay, ‘I am delighted that Hyundai have come on board with this initiative. I am looking for cooks of the future who show qualities of hard work and dedication to make it to the top.’

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