We are in the age where a formula exists for motor shows in our country. Being a motoring journalist for several years now, I’ve come to know the formula well.
Patterned after the international motor shows, the first day is usually reserved for members of the media. This is logical--once the word gets out in newspapers, radio, news and the internet, the information will draw in people to the succeeding days. Almost all motor shows are held from a Thursday to a Sunday, and the trend is each day draws in more and more people. By noon of the last day it feels like all the car fans and those even mildly curious about automobiles have converged at the World Trade Center (WTC)--the usual event venue for big motor shows. On that day the WTC feels like a black hole.
For the ladies out there who don’t understand why men have to cram inside one roof when they can see most of these cars in showrooms, here’s an analogy: Imagine a 50% off sale in Forever 21, and there’s a fashion show at the same time showcasing future collections. That’s the closest I can think of.
Each carmaker presents its vehicles and concepts in different ways: concerts, dancers, children singing, or the old favorite--sleek models pulling behind a blanket to unveil their sponsor’s new baby. Then the event ends and the display models take over. These are women who are usually regulars in motor shows and are paid to smile and offer brochures to men who they normally wouldn’t look at in the real world.
But this year’s Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS) feels special for several reasons. There’s palpable change in the way it’s executed, an improvement over its past iterations. Here are the highlights of my observations:
1. It actually happened - For some time I was wondering if the PIMS would actually push through, especially after the economic slowdown last year. There were even rumors of internal politics, then again, what big and prosperous organization doesn’t have politics? But whatever the hurdles, the CAMPI members set the date and mounted the show. Whether it surpasses or falls short of the last PIMS, it’s already a success because it occurred.
2. The booths are better - As I looked around the pavilions, the raised stages, the video screens, and the ceiling collaterals, I had one thing on my mind--the carmakers have raised their game. For a second I thought I was seeing the Tokyo Motor Show, one of the biggest motor shows on the planet. There were revolving stages, mascots, dancers, gorgeous models (you have good taste, Nissan) and even some tigers during the first day.
3. More carmakers are joining - We here in Top Gear prefer to think of ourselves as a friend to all, we don’t pander to one group of carmakers or motor shows over another--we side with the whole motoring industry, and more importantly the readers and motorists we both serve. But it’s nice to see new members like CATS Motors with brands like Mercedes-Benz, Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep joining the fold. A unified auto industry fosters healthy and fair competition, and if a motoring organization can’t do that, what’s the point?
4. The car displays are well-spaced - Instead of trying to push every product in their lineup like before, the carmakers seem to have chosen a select few, dressed them up to let motorists see them in a new light, and presented them well. The result is the booths feel roomier, it’s easier to take pictures of the cars without waiting for an opening in the crowd, and there’s generally more space to ogle the new metal without limbs and feet constantly obstructing your view. More doesn’t always mean merrier, and it’s nice to see the car brands realizing that.
5. The car fans are as enthusiastic as ever – I was able to chat with a few of the Top Gear readers, and it wasn’t long before we were chatting like old friends. The passion for automobiles is a unique bond, and a motor show is one of the few venues where it is best seen. In these events I not only look at the new cars, I look at the faces of the crowd. I like seeing their beaming faces when they see the Mitsubishi Lancer rally car, the plush Hyundai Starex Grand Limousine, the massively luxurious Nissan Patrol Royale (with cheese), or the stunning Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. It’s that spark in your eyes that we motoring journalists tap into when we write. Deep inside, most of us are just like you, car fans who get car-struck at the sight of a new car model. I believe it’s a connection that will stay with us as long as we live. People get tired of fads: badminton, Friendster, shawarma, Zagu, telenovelas (well, not really, but I’m hoping). I never met a former car nut who said he got tired of automobiles. Some do settle down and prioritize raising their kids and putting them through school, thus trading in the two-door weekend car for a Toyota Innova, and we salute these guys. But I still see them in motor shows, gazing at the Audi R8 longingly (or at the Suzuki booth girl in the schoolgirl outfit when the missus is not looking), caressing the Chevrolet Camaro (usually with their son who sees it as Bumblebee), and admiring the BMW 335i convertible. One word describes the look on their faces: ‘someday’. I know because I feel it, too.