After an absence of five years, the Cyprus Motor Show took place again last weekend at the old International State Fair grounds in the Makedonitissa area of Nicosia.
‘Old’ is the key word here: the venue is an absolute disgrace, with cracked pavements, weeds growing in the roads and electric fans swinging precariously from ceilings.
The exhibition spaces were suffocatingly hot and one exhibitor said they couldn’t open the windows because the birds would fly in (and probably poop on the cars!)
When I commented that everything was spaced rather far apart another exhibitor said that many of the buildings were unsafe and therefore the choice was limited.
One has to wonder why the motor importers agreed to pay substantial amounts of money to rent such a dilapidated space in which to showcase their shiny new vehicles.
They did try to spruce up their sections with carpets, lights and music, (Pilakoutas even had a pianist tinkling the ivories of a grand piano among the BMWs and Jaguars) but there was no escaping the run-down feel of the whole area. “It should be completely knocked down and rebuilt” said a rather disgruntled exhibitor.
“Actually, it was better than I thought,” said one importer, adding that “people were very interested in all the new technology, much of which has become mainstream since we last had a motor show here and so they hadn’t seen it before”.
He agreed, however, that the venue leaves a lot to be desired “but there isn’t anywhere else”.
The reaction of visitors to the show was mixed: several people I spoke to said they expected more for their five euro entry fee. “We can see the cars for free in the showrooms” and “I thought there would be more to do” were common reactions, but others said it was “nice to see the new models” and saved them going all around town to see what was on offer.
The Employers and Industrialists Federation, which co-organised the event, were rather coy when I called to ask how many tickets they had sold over the Motor Show weekend. I was told that they had 25,000 visitors, but they were unable to tell me the number of tickets sold.
Personally, I believe a great opportunity was squandered. After a gap of five years I’m sure a hyped-up show would have pulled in the punters from all over the island. But then again, how many go on to splash out on a new car? “You don’t go to the show to sell cars,” one experienced sales manager told me. “You go for the lead-in, and we will know in about four or five weeks whether our presence translated into sales.”
Nevertheless more interactive displays and a zippier approach would surely go down well: the Cyprus Rally booth had three classic rally cars on show, but their main attraction was the two simulators, where young and old alike tried their hand at virtual driving over a special stage.
A notable absentee was the Cyprus Police: as far back as I can remember they always had a stand promoting road safety, even giving visitors the chance to feel what the impact of a crash is like with their ‘seat belt simulator’, but there was no sign of the boys in blue at this year’s event, nor of the well-known road safety NGO ‘Reaction’.
There is space at the venue to allow for short test drives, although the condition of the ‘roads’ would need to be improved, and there could be other motor-related attractions like karting and model cars, and classic vehicles.
So, what was on display? Most dealers tried to introduce a new or facelifted model and one or two even brought cars especially for the show despite the fact that they won’t have those models in their showrooms for perhaps several months.
Volvo gave us a sneak preview of the new XC60 which will arrive in the summer, with deliveries slated for November, while Hyundai’s star was the new i30, due in Cypriot showrooms in a couple of months.
The new 5 Series took pride of place at BMW, and local agent Pilakoutas also showcased the new Mini Countryman.
The newly arrived Yaris was the focus for Toyota along with the sleek GT 86 which has recently been updated. The deep red 223hp Lexus RC 300h (hybrid) drew admiring glances, and there was much interest in the new (10th generation) Honda Civic and the Peugeot 3008 – launched in Cyprus last week.
Another Cyprus launch, at the UNICARS stand, was the Skoda Kodiak and the Czech brand also had the new Superb on display.
Nearby were the new Seat Leon Cupra and the VW Golf 7 after its major facelift.
Finally, in the CIC pavilion there was Fiat and Mercedes, but the undoubted top attraction was the new 4-wheel-drive offering from Alfa Romeo, the Stelvio, which has just arrived on the island.
Most of the exhibitors I have spoken to after the event thought it was good to have the show back on the calendar, but they also admitted that they would prefer a venue more in keeping with the 21st century. Time, perhaps, for the relevant government department or Ministry to look closely at the whole site and perhaps – as suggested above – bulldoze it and start again.
In these straitened times, there was one consolation for punters who couldn’t afford the down payment on a new car: as they left the grounds, they could buy a live rabbit from one of the hawkers at the gate.