Show the passion
When business is tough, is attending an expo a superfluous waste of time, or exactly what one should be doing?
At the beginning of September I attended the 2017 South African Motoring Experience, which was sponsored by WesBank and organised by SA Shows Messe Frankfurt.
The event was being held for the second time and 57 600 people flocked to the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit to see the latest models from a selection of South Africa’s automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
(That number was 12 600 more than the organisers had anticipated and approximately 7 600 more than the inaugural 2016 show.)
Visitors were also able to experience the vehicles by being driven around the Kyalami circuit as well as on the 4×4 track. There were classic cars, race cars, interactive activities set up by the various OEMs and displays by aftermarket exhibitors and related suppliers. The grounds were abuzz and the queues were long.
By the end of that same month I found myself – along with the rest of the FOCUS team – trawling the halls of the Johannesburg Expo Centre, Nasrec, for the first ever Futuroad expo.
Another event from SA Shows Messe Frankfurt, Futuroad was co-located with the well-established Automechnika Johannesburg show (now ten years old and in its fifth edition) and the Scalex Johannesburg logistics and materials-handling show.
It’s been four years since South Africa had a major show dedicated to commercial vehicles, trucking, transport and everything one would associate with the industry. Back then, the show formed part of the Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS), which was far more of a consumer-oriented event (much like the SA Motoring Experience that replaced it) that added little value to the commercial-vehicle side of the industry.
Futuroad was designed to right that; bringing three related shows to one venue to give commercial-vehicle operators access to the latest models, aftermarket products and services, as well as the latest in best practice through the many adjoining conferences. One could even test-drive new models.
Despite this appealing concept, it was impossible to ignore the fact that the Futuroad halls were disappointingly quiet. At the time of writing the organiser had not totalled the number of visitors. However, the organisers and exhibitors alike – who invested much money and effort and had some top-notch exhibits – could not have been anything but disappointed.
Now, I know it is unfair and unwise to compare an event like the SA Motoring Experience with Futuroad. They have completely different objectives and speak to completely different audiences, and having a relative handful of decision-makers spend time on your stand is undoubtedly better than having a tonne of tyre-kickers drifting around.
Sure, business is not exactly booming and the transport industry is still fighting its way forward. However, I, personally, really had expected more of a showing. Especially knowing how passionate local commercial vehicle and transport operators are about their trucks and businesses, and how they continually search for maximum uptime and cost efficiency.
Automechanika, Futuroad and Scalex 2017 certainly catered to that (see our full report starting on page 16) and provided insight and opportunity for taking business forward in a tough environment. Here’s hoping the next instalment attracts greater excitement…