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Review: How Fair Was 2016 Lagos Motor Fair?

By: ROTIMI ASHER (Motoring World’s Lagos Bureau Chief)

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]leventh edition of Lagos Motor Fair was concluded last Wednesday. The fair has been organized by BKG Exhibition Limited, Nigeria’s multiple fair organizing company. This year’s edition was significant, because, for the first time, it witnessed collaboration with Senexpo International Fairs Inc. Istanbul, Turkey, as a result of which many foreign auto parts exhibitors graced the show.

However, a question remains: was the fair able to achieve its objectives? One of the main objectives of an auto fair is to avail participants the opportunity to reach out to more customers, make more contacts and also interact with policy makers. The success of Lagos Motor Fair depends on whether or not participants were able to accomplish the above objectives and more.

Entrance of the Federal palace Hotel, Victoria Island, venue of the 2016 Lagos Motor Fair
Entrance of the Federal palace Hotel, Victoria Island, venue of the 2016 Lagos Motor Fair (Copyright: Motoring World Int.)

Secondly, all over the world, motor fairs require full involvement of the media (print, electronic and online), especially motoring journalist without discrimination, since a motor fair is supposed to be a media event. Failure to make it so amounts to planning such an event with the mind to fail. Another question, therefore, remains: Apart from the usual pre-event news release, how much media coverage did exhibitors/exhibits enjoy during the event?

Toyota Nigria Limited's exhibition, the biggest stand of the event
Toyota Nigeria Limited’s exhibition, the biggest stand of the event (Copyright: Motoring World Int.)

This year Lagos Motor Fair attracted five major participants, including Briscoe Ford, Peugeot Nigeria limited, Toyota Nigeria limited in collaboration with its sub-dealers, Leventis Motors and Cornerstone Insurance. It also has auto parts exhibitors from Turkey and China.

How Fair?

On the last day of the event, Motoring World correspondents took time to gauge the pulse of the participants concerning the fair.

Though the likes of Peugeot and Cornerstone Insurance left before the end of the event, Motoring World’s first point of call was Briscoe Ford pavilion.

Briscoe Ford's stand
Briscoe Ford’s stand, showcasing Ford Ranger, Ford Ranger Hurricane, Ford Ranger XLT and Ford Eco Sport, the brand’s most fuel efficient SUV (Copyright: Motoring World Int.)

Briscoe Ford: The firm displayed the Ford Ranger, Ford Ranger Hurricane, Ford Ranger XLT and Ford Eco Sport, the brand’s most fuel efficient SUV. Nonetheless, the firm’s star exhibition at the show was 2015 Ford Explorer, 2016 model of which was unveiled in Lagos last week Tuesday.

Speaking to Motoring World on how Briscoe Ford faired at the show, Ford Sales Executive, Andrea Okafor said: ”we have been here since the beginning of the fair and we have a good turn-out. We have a lot of enquiries and prospects. We are optimistic that they will turn out into sales. The fair went well and we hope to be here next year.”

Toyota Nigria Limited's exhibition, the biggest stand of the event
Toyota Nigeria Limited’s exhibition, the biggest stand of the event (Copyright: Motoring World Int.)

Toyota Nigeria Limited: Next point of visit was Toyota Nigeria Limited’s stand. Though the company’s spokesperson, Mr Alake, was said to be unavailable at the time of our visit, we requested to speak to a representative of one of the company’s sub-dealers, who initially declined, but opened up after much persuasion. A Marketing Executive of Kojo Motors, Mr Amune Clement was not as impressed as the Briscoe Ford sales person regarding the turn-out. To him, the turnout was very low.

”No, no, the turnout is very discouraging,” he lamented.  “It is very low compared to last year’s. If you had been here earlier, you would have heard people complaining. You discover that most auto companies did not come to the fair. We are not many. We are about five. No Kia , Stallion and others, which is very unusual.”

Notwithstanding, did Kojo Motors receive some inquiries?

“People came for enquiries, but not as expected,” Mr Clement pointed out. “I was here last year. I made some sales here. That did not happen this time. The turnout this time is too low.”

However, rather than blame the organizers, Clement attributed the low turn-out to the nation’s economic situation.

‘‘It is not the fault of the organizer.” he said. “The economic situation of the country is biting harder and harder. So, a lot of people prefer to go for fairly used vehicles known as Tokunbo and the foreign exchange problem does not help matters too. In my opinion, the organizer did the best media campaign they could do. But the economy must have caused the low turnout.”

Some of the vehicles showcased by Toyota are: Toyota Hiace, Hilux, Fortuna and others. According to Amune, Toyota did not have a star vehicle for the show.

Leventis Motors Stand, showcasing luxury brands from Asia and Europe
Leventis Motors Stand, showcasing luxury brands from Asia and Europe (Copyright: Motoring World Int.)

Leventis Motors: Least expected Auto Company at the show was Leventis Motors. As if using the now concluded event to announce: ‘We are back’, Leventis Motors, a firm that pioneered marketing of Mercedes Benz in Nigeria, was off the auto marketing radar for  many years. The company is back on the beat, marketing premium vehicles like Eicher from India, Foton Daimler from China, Volkswagen, a German product made in Brazil and a truck called the Worker.

The Eicher appeared to be Leventis’ star exhibit at the show. But the company’s, V-Eicher Brand Manager, Nobert Okafor, responded to the contrary.

Stand of Esan battery from Turkey
Stand of Esan battery from Turkey

“All th vehicles we are exhibiting are stars,” he enthused. “We used to assemble Mercedes Benz in the past, but not anymore. We have gone for another premium brand like Volkswagen. We decided to go for middle class vehicles. That is why we’ve gone for Foton Daimler, Eicher, a vehicle with Volvo technology, so that people can afford these vehicles. After all, you cannot go to the market and meet only the rich. We want to also encourage growing businesses, the SME. We decided to bring into the market vehicles that can pass the test of time in our terrain. The vehicles are all durable and rugged and are covered with warrantee and after sales support.”

Best Choice
Stand of Best Choice International Trade Co. Ltd, a tyre company from Beijing, China, exhibiting Amazzini, Sunew and Autogreen tyres (Copyright: Motoring World Int.)

In Mr. Okafor’s assessment, the auto fair was fair, despite not registering many participants.

”The fair is just fair but organizers needs to do more in the future,” he said. “The organizers should bring the fair to the people, who are into the business by creating awareness. At the end of the day, we have been able to exhibit our products. A lot of potential buyers also came around to check.”

Motoring World also spoke to some exhibitors at the auto part section, apparently coordinated by Senexpo International. One of them was Best Choice International Trade Co. Ltd, a tyre company from Beijing, China exhibiting Amazzini, Sunew and Autogreen tyres. Showcasing the product in Nigeria for the first time, the firm had on fair ground its vice-President, Sales and Marketing, Mr. Stephen Wu. Fielding questions from Motoring World, Wu expressed disappointment about level of turn-out.

Cornerstone Insurance stand, empty before the end of the show
Stand of Cornerstone Insurance, a leading Nigerian insurance provider (Copyright: Motoring World Int.)

”We have our own private brand,” Wu explained. “We came because Nigeria is a big market, number one in Africa. It is a big market for Chinese products. We are disappointed, because there are not many visitors. I think the show needs advertisement and promotion. We may not come next year.”

Esan AKU: A battery manufacturer, founded in Istanbul, Turkey in 1978, Esan Aku is  well known for its high quality products and it exports battery and battery substances to several countries, including North Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Jordan, Angola, Israel. The firm exhibited at the just concluded Lagos Motor Fair.

Esan Aku’s Foreign Trade Specialist, Ozgun Deniz, who was not too pleased with the event’s level of turn-out, commented thus: ”Nigeria has been one of our target markets and the automotive market is so big. The organizer sent the information about the fair. We checked and decided to join the fair. Actually, we were expecting many people, but there wasn’t. I believe it may be better next year. We hope to come back next year.”

No doubt, the economic situation may have been one of the contributing factors to low turn out at the fair; analysts believe turn-out quality might have been better, had the organizer engaged the service of a professional PR firm for consultancy.

Motoring World, however, discovered a poor media relation, an essential ingredient of a motor show.  For instance, many most motoring journalists contacted by Motoring World, claimed not to have been carried along in the course of preparation and the organization of the fair.

Motoring World also found out that, contrary to the standard of motor show organization all over the world, including Automania of blessed memory, there was hardly any media report between the opening and closing of the show. The organizer might have made provisions for this, it definitely did not happen. “The excitement is still turbocharged..”, which used to be Automania Motor Show’s TV and radio advert’s  pay-off, is still remembered today by many auto enthusiasts. If BKG Motorfair has got one, it is certainly not one that can be remembered effectively.

On what to do to have a fairer event come 2017, Motoring World’s editor-in-chief, Mr. Femi Owoeye, has this to say: “Honestly, I salute the organizer’s doggedness to have been able to keep the show going for all these years. I was present at the first edition of Abuja event. That was before the year 2000. BKG management simply needs to up its game; depart from what has become Nigeria’s poverty-coloured media relations culture. I mean media relation that is based on fatness of brown envelopes.

“I’ve attended motor shows in virtually all planets of the earth. To get invited, all that a journalist needs do is prove that he or she writes for a relevant media house, full time or freelance. You are accredited. And on the fair ground, you have all equipment and information required to do your daily reports. And what do you have? Massive publicity and turn-out!

A Lagos-based Public Relations expert, who spoke to Motoring World anonymously, placed the problem on the feet of corruption in Nigeria.

“But, you see, in Nigeria, corruption has changed everything,” he said. “Because of the envelope sharing involved, practicing journalists are found to take over the jobs of public relations experts. And when that happens, a professional motoring journalist may not get invited to an event, if he or she is not in the good book of such a colleague.

“Secondly, because it is now cash-and-carry business, companies too could feel the need to rationalize their budget and cut down the number of journalists to be invited to events, which is sad about Nigerian journalism. But in case of a motor show, you asked me about, had the organizer engaged the service of a PR professional, the result would have been different, notwithstanding the state of the economy.”

The common message from exhibitors and analysts is that the show’s organizer should improve on media relations, when planning future events.

Despite all the shortcomings, however, gauging the divided opinions of exhibitors, the fair could not be said to be totally unfair, although for those, who traveled all the way from China and Turkey, what they met was far below their expectations.

While the show still leaves many rooms for improvement; its organizers, BKG deserve some kudos for being able to consistently hold the event for over a decade. It is just that they need to, in future, do more in terms of promo to give exhibitors value for their money.

Otherwise, certain exhibitors would suddenly realize that they could get more turn-out from investing their money on internet exhibition, rather than going through the stress of transporting their wares to Lagos or Abuja in future.

 

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