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Bangkok (March, 2004)

Name: Barcelona 32nd International Motor Show
Show dates: VIP Day: Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Press Days: Thursday, March 25, 2004
Public Days: Friday, March 26 through Sunday, April 4, 2004 10 days
Venue: Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC)

Outline and Impressions of Show:

The Bangkok International Motor Show began in 1979 and celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Until last year the show was organized by Grandprix International Co., Ltd. (GPI), a publisher of automotive magazines, but beginning with the 25th show the Thai Automotive Industry Association (TAIA) has come onboard as a co-organizer, and the show has been officially certified as an international motor show by the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles (OICA, headquartered in Paris). Bangkok is only the third Asian motor show to achieve OICA certification. The other two are Tokyo and Seoul. Mr. Takao Suzuki, Vice Chairman of JAMA, gave the opening speech at the Opening Ceremony on behalf of OICA.

Since the 19th show (1998), BITEC (Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre) has served as the venue. The show is located about 30 minutes by taxi from downtown Bangkok, although this depends somewhat on the traffic. Unfortunately, the new Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS) does not yet reach as far as the exhibition grounds. Even still, over the past two years the facility has extended its indoor exhibition space available and is now able to offer 33,000 m2. Audio equipment and accessories were exhibited in a high-quality tent measuring 25-30 m wide, about 100 m long and 12 m high. All other exhibits were inside, and the halls were all under one roof, which made it very easy for visitors to get around. Although the exhibition space is less than half that of Makuhari Messe where the Tokyo Motor Show is held, and the number of exhibitors also about half, most of the major Japanese, American and European brands were on hand, making this a very "well rounded" motor show.

It was almost as if one were attending a scaled-down version of Tokyo. The halls themselves were very diligently cleaned, which made for a pleasant atmosphere, and the wooden benches along the walls gave tired visitors a welcome opportunity to rest. Also of note was the on-premises massage corner.

Having achieved OICA certification, Bangkok has become a more visibly international motor show this year, and featured a large jump in the number of concept cars on display. Many of these cars had been announced by exhibitors at other major motor shows around the world as the world premiere. Although it still has some "trade show" aspects (it is not uncommon to see deals being hammered out), Bangkok has become a much more "international" motor show than its other Asian rivals.

We visited on Sunday, March 28, expected to be one of the show's busiest days. People were lining up at the gates well ahead of the 11:00 AM opening. As opening time neared, the concourse in front of the gates was a sea of people who seemed to be literally sucked into the show when the doors finally opened. There was the same excitement in the air as you feel at the Tokyo Motor Show. About an hour and a half into the day, the main passageway inside the hall was clogged with people, making it slow-going to get through.

130 companies from 11 countries participated this year. Toyota focused its exhibit on the "CS&S" and "PM" concept cars that drew rave reviews at the Tokyo Motor Show. It also had the "LF-5" on hand representing the Lexus brand. Honda wowed visitors with the "HSC" concept sports car and the "FCX" fuel cell vehicle. Other Japanese automakers spent a lot of time and money on their exhibits too, many of them bringing in concept cars that had been exhibited earlier in Tokyo. Mercedes-Benz also brought along the "SLX" and "SLR McLaren" from the Tokyo Motor Show.

There were many more concept cars and new models on display this year than last year or the year before. It seems that OICA certification has caused exhibitors to place more emphasis on the Bangkok Motor Show. Upon entering the hall it almost felt as if you were at a "miniature Tokyo Motor Show".

Concurrent with the exhibit was a series of symposiums sponsored by the Thai Automotive Industry Association (TAIA) on topics such as ASEAN market integration, ITS, and next-generation environmental technologies. The symposiums underscored TAIA's efforts to serve as a source of information for the industry.

A vacant lot next to BITEC served as the scene for a four-wheel drive "off-road demonstration" sponsored by ESSO. This was one of the most popular special events at the show. Also popular with visitors was the raffle, which included cars and motorcycles as prizes. Anyone paying the 80 baht (approx. 240 yen) price of admission was eligible. All that was required was to fill in your name, address, age, occupation, income and contact information, answer some questions on a survey form passed out at the gate and drop it in a box. Prizes included Toyota's "Wish" and "VIOS" models, an Isuzu "D-MAX" and several motorcycles. From what we could see, almost everyone made sure to fill in the form.

At events such as this, food and dining facilities are always issues of concern for visitors. BITEC has two permanent restaurants, one for VIPs, one for ordinary visitors. The visitors' restaurant was divided into 15 corners depending on the type of fare desired, and there was an impressive variety of tastes catered to: Thai, Chinese, Sushi, Coffee and Pastries, Curry, Vegetarian, Muslim, and more. Prices were around 40-50 baht (120-150 yen) per dish, with beverages running 10-20 baht (30-60 yen). The sheer breadth of the menu was amazing.

The organizers chose "Gateway to the Future" as the theme for the show, and have set themselves the goal of turning Bangkok into "the Detroit of Asia." By the participation of the Thai Automotive Industry Association (TAIA) and the official certification of the OICA, the Bangkok International Motor Show has ensured and enhanced its position in the automotive industry.
BITEC, the show venue

Toyota's "CS&S" and "PM"
Honda's "HSC" concept sports car
Mercedes-Benz's "SLR McLaren"
ITS Symposium
Four-wheel drive off-road event
Mr. Takao Suzuki, Vice Chairman of JAMA, gave an opening speech at the Opening Ceremony
Visitors thronged the halls