Australia has a new motor show, and it's nothing like the old-school shows which saw giant exhibition centres in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane turned into massive new-car showrooms for buyers to cross-shop their potential choices.
Instead, this annual mecca of motoring has sprung up around and inside the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne's green Albert Park, where the first race of the world championship sees fast-car fantasies mixed with parties in an event which rivals Fashion Week and the Spring Racing Carnival for fun and excitement.
A four-day crowd of more than 200,000 ensures plenty of interest in the high-end cars which are displayed and driven across the GP weekend.
“It’s one of the rare opportunities where we can see all our clients at one event,” says Herbert Appleroth, CEO of Ferrari Australasia.
Ferrari went all-out for grand prix week in 2019, splashing $500,000 on the pop-up Ferrari Red Lounge to host invitation-only guests and spark the dreams which have fuelled passion for the Prancing Horse since the 1950s.
Appleroth arranged to have the SP1 Monza concept car air-freighted to Australia, ahead of production of the $3 million limited-edition machine, while guests at a special reception chatted with Ferrari’s grand prix star Sebastian Vettel.
“There are three major events – the Australian open tennis, the Spring Carnival and Formula One – which work for us. That’s why we had the pop-up built,” explains Appleroth.
But Ferrari doesn't have this de facto GP motor show all to itself.
Mercedes-Benz ran car displays and customer events as part of a sponsorship which saw the three-pointed star provide the official GP Safety Car plus the doctor’s vehicle for use in the race, while Alfa Romeo took over the track during the lead-up to GP weekend for a drive event that spun the spotlight onto its latest Stelvio SUV.
The GP motor show is a deliberate creation by the grand prix organisers, who identified a gap in the car world more than five years. Since then they have actively promoted the car displays, linking their efforts particularly with the car brands - Mercedes, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Honda, McLaren and Ferrari - which compete in the big event.
All of the efforts are modelled on the global benchmark for moving motor shows, the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Britain – which started as a classic car event, much like Melbourne's Motorclassica, but has become the sell-out benchmark for modern motor shows, and the one that the AGP intends to mimic over coming years.
It’s a connection that is easy for Aston Martin, and its Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman, to understand and exploit in Melbourne.
“The whole world is changing that way. No-one wants to go to a dealership any more. They want an experience,” Reichman tells Australian Business Traveller trackside at the grand prix.
“A 'moving motor show', that's where we talk about our experiences and ‘brand centres’ for the future. We can display our cars and also show them on the move.”
As the F1 cars roared around Albert Park, and homegrown Supercars provided their sideshow with Ford Mustang and Holden Commodores racing with high-powered V8s, Reichman knew exactly why the 21st century motor show in Melbourne is working and growing and drawing big crowds. “They are brilliant petrol heads who love our cars,” he laughs.