A much larger array of vehicles was on display this year, but some big names were missing and visitor numbers were lower than anticipated
More cars, pity about the crowd Millennium Motor Show

THE Millennium Motor Show wrapped up on Sunday night, after a 10-day run at Suntec City Exhibition Centre.

Ticket sales have placed the total attendance for the show at 131,000, short of the projected 200,000 target.

The biannual show featured a much larger array of exhibits this time round, with motorcycles jockeying for attention with exotic cars for the first time, and unusual attractions such as indoor go-karting and a monster truck from Australia.

"It was better than the last one, and definitely bigger, too," said Mr David Ting, editor of Autocar Asean. "The go-karting was a good idea. It was pretty exciting and it is good to introduce this kind of motorsport to the public."

Ultimately, the Millennium show was a far more vibrant event than the somewhat subdued Singapore Motor Show two years ago, which took place against a backdrop of an economic slowdown, and felt like little more than an exercise which saw distributors transplanting their showrooms to Suntec City.

Twenty-five car brands were represented, along with four commercial vehicle exhibitors and 19 motorcycle makes over an area of 25,000 sq m. 

There were Formula One cars, a Champcar from the USA's Championship Auto Racing Teams series, and accessory dealers galore.

But despite the added extra attractions this year, it was the cars that were most appreciated by the public.

"It was pretty good because I got to sit in a lot of new cars under one roof," said Mr Eddie Tan, 29, an interior designer. "The whole environment was friendlier than visiting a showroom. There are no sales people pressuring you and you can really take your time to look at the car closely.

Mr Tan also relished the opportunity to get up close to some prestigious cars like Bentleys, Porsches and Audis. "The motor show is a good place to appreciate them and not feel too inferior that you can't afford them," he said.

Participating dealers were pleased with the show on the whole. "It went very well," said Mr Say Kwee Neng, general manager of AutoFrance, the local Peugeot agent.

AutoFrance sold about 10 of the 206CC convertible, picked up enquiries about the 607 flagship launched at the show, and closed many deals on their other models.

Selling cars at the show itself was an unusual occurrence. "Generally you don't sign deals during the show. People will come to have a look and come to the showroom at a later time to drive the car and close the deal then," said Mr Say.

Kah Motor sold about 10 Hondas, but said that more sales were clinched during follow-up visits by people who had dropped by their stand at Suntec City.

"A motor show is not about selling cars," said Mr Vincent Ng, the company's product manager. "We want people to be impressed by our products and come down to the showroom. And that is where we close a lot of deals from the motor show."

Mr Ng also said that Kah used the motor show as a gauge of public opinion. "Sometimes it's also a good way to find out if it is worthwhile to bring in a certain model, through the people's reaction to the product," he explained.

"Take the Honda Stream mini-MPV, for example. A lot of people showed interest."

Other dealers shared similar sentiments. Car and Cars, the local Volkswagen distributor, for example, sold more than 20 cars at the show itself, not counting the final weekend.

However, a spokesman said that the main point of its stand was not to sell cars, but to project the right image of the brand and get people into the showroom.

The Motor Show was not without its detractors, however. "I think it lacked excitement," said Ms Christine Kwang, 26. The investment analyst was disappointed by a lack of futuristic concept vehicles.

"These are the kind of thing many people are interested in because you don't ever get to see them except in magazines," she said. "The only time you can see and touch them in real-life is at a motor show."

Members of the press complained that the issuing of media passes was handled clumsily and that organisers were stingy with passes. Local journalists were issued with only a one-day pass.

However, a spokesman for the Motor Traders Association, the main organiser of the show, said that it would look into the matter for future shows.

Another shortcoming of the show was the notable absence of some major players.

Mobil was conspicuous by its absence, for example, while the non-participation of Borneo Motors and Cycle & Carriage meant that no fewer than six automotive brands were not at the event. They were Toyota, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Proton, Kia and Mitsubishi.

But the most crucial area in which the Millennium Motor Show may have fallen short was in the number of visitors it managed to draw.

The 131,000 figure is significantly smaller than the 200,000 trade and public visitors projected by the MTA before the show.

Nevertheless, the Singapore Motor Show is still the biggest such event in Singapore, and the participants, at least, were satisfied after it ended.

As a spokesman for Car and Cars said: "There is no better occasion than the motor show to show off your products."