Goodwood 2014: A Stroll around the village

DSC_5640 Ever since visiting Disneyworld when I was twelve, theme parks have been ruined for me forever. The immense Orlando complex, with its own sophisticated monorail, constantly swept pavement and ultra-high budget thrill rides, became the standard by which I would judge all subsequent theme park visits by.  If I’d never been to Disneyworld I’d be much better placed to enjoy the regional theme parks of England with their archaic, rusting rollercoasters which couldn’t deliver a thrill even if you were force fed a bag of skittles laced with LSD before boarding. Likewise, visiting the Tokyo motorshow made the next UK show I attended seem a bit of a damp squib. And now Goodwood is forcing me to recalibrate my motorshow expectations once again. This is not even a motorshow. That is to say, it doesn’t perform quite the same job that a motorshow does. A regular motorshow is designed to allow all the participating manufacturers to create a mindset. It’s about consumer programming. Visit the Jaguar stand and you are expected to leave with the view that the Indian-owned Coventry marque produce cars which are sporty and luxurious yet elegant and understated. Visit SEAT and the hope is that you’ll register them as a brand imbued with a sense of fun and individuality. At Goodwood, life is made a lot easier because everybody here has already had their adrenalin levels heightened by the loud, smelly activity on the hillclimb track. You’ll have to look long and hard for a cynic here. Everybody’s already smiling, all the brands really needed to do was to show up. Which they did. And then some. DSC_5761 It’s impossible to imagine this as a temporary landscape which will be gone after the weekend is out. The staging put on by the exhibitors here is on a much bigger scale than at a typical motorshow. DSC_5759 The Ford display, for example, soars three storeys and has a kids helter-skelter launching from one side. The new all-new Mondeo, incidentally, was displayed on the roof. Also, the rampant “Mustang” branding everywhere went unnoticed by me until today. I was oblivious to it when I pumped out yesterday’s Mustang post. DSC_5702 Skoda brought their own hairpin mountain pass along, which folk were invited to ride bicycles to the summit of, and were awarded green jelly beans for their efforts. DSC_5785 Infiniti, who are really pushing their brand hard in the UK ( yet people seem to remain slightly confused as to who on Earth they actually are) had a live DJ spinning phat discs, which must have been a thoroughly unrewarding experience for the poor guy. I didn’t see a single soul even appear to contemplate dancing. DSC_5763 Nissan went all out with a Miami-style Art-Deco construct, the top of which had a highly effective LED scrolling banner going on at great length about how innovative Nissan are. Which they are, I guess. So that’s fine. DSC_5791 Toyota thought they had a fantastic pun with “GO FUN YOURSELF” in graffiti out back, but it didn’t really work out. The stand was immense, but suffered a little from a split personality with all the sporty GT86 stuff at the front and the cute, fun stuff (Aygo, Yaris) on the other side. DSC_5765 Mercedes-Benz, as you might expect, brought a bit of Germanic sobriety to the event. Their complex was a little geographically removed from the main drag and was the size of an aircraft hangar. DSC_5767 Inside, all was air-conditioned, ceramic floored, LED screened, very, very cool, very very slick. There were loads more, and in truth nobody had a disappointing stand. My jaw was equally slack when I visited any of them. I live near some pretty impressive car dealerships, but somehow they all, without exception, manage to exude the same clinical air. You step through the door and you never quite escape from the thought that, ultimately, they want to somehow take your money. That’s still true here, of course. But the big goal here is to promote positive brand awareness, initialising a slow-burning process that might just lead to a purchase some day in the future. There was no pushiness, nobody telling you about enticing new finance packages, just brand ambassadors who either genuinely love their product or are a) very well trained indeed or b) incredibly good actors. As what is after all a living, breathing, visceral celebration of the car, this was one of the greatest motorshows I’ve ever been to. (Images copyright Chris Haining and Hooniverse 2014)

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