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The country’s most-anticipated automotive spectacle pivots to digital
FOR A YEAR largely bereft of things to rejoice about, the Manila International Auto Show (MIAS) was both an escapist distraction and proof of life for the country’s automotive industry.
At the start of the pandemic, organizers had understandably nixed the planned April staging. For motoring enthusiasts and, to be sure, motoring journos, MIAS has always signaled the start of summer. While many troop to the beaches, we always have MIAS.
The crush of people gawking at the latest vehicles, the brave souls seeking selfies with the lady models, the pulsating musical numbers, and a glimpse of auto executives and celebrities — all of that was swept by the wayside this year.
Last Wednesday though, MIAS (now bannering the name “MIAS Wired”) was back with a mighty shift to digital. Its organizers understandably didn’t want the year to pass without the country’s most awaited and longest-running motoring spectacle.
Said co-organizer Jason Ang, in an exclusive interview with “Velocity:” “MIAS Wired was designed to bring the feel and excitement of the live auto show to the virtual space. Mapped out with high-resolution cameras, the 3D booths are the closest we can have MIAS visitors to the onsite show this year. The 17 car brands that joined welcomed the chance to have a full virtual showroom within MIAS Wired.”
It was certainly a different experience to have waited for and sat through the opening ceremonies last Dec. 16 in front of my laptop screen instead of at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. Familiar MIAS faces such as our “Velocity” columnist James Deakin (who hosted again this year), Automobile Association Philippines President Gus Lagman, and, of course, Worldbex Services International Founding Chairman Joseph Ang led the proceedings, with guests from government including Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Danilo Lim and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco. President Rodrigo Duterte also sent a letter expressing his support to MIAS.
Speaker Velasco said, “We must use this platform to its fullest gear to salvage the economy,” and described the pivot to digital as a “new way of fulfilling the passion for cars (through) a one-of-a-kind virtual marketplace.” The lawmaker also said that the country is undergoing “recession like the rest of the world… we need support from consumers and enthusiasts.”
Gus Lagman described MIAS Wired similarly as “fulfilling the need of car enthusiasts and motorists,” and expressed gratitude to the organizers that “despite the problems of this year, they’re able to conduct a virtual car show.”
Meanwhile, MMDA’s Danny Lim reminded the public of the need for “more responsible car owners for (government) programs to work.”
To be honest, there was hardly any unveiling at the MIAS. Rather, highlighted models were previously launched earlier in the year. I suspect this is a function of the rescheduling. Remember, of course, that we’re at the end of the 2020 (yay!), so most, if not all, brands have rolled out their planned releases for the year. Still, as I’ve always said, we’ll take all the wins and triumphs we can get our hands on. During these darkest of moments, the smallest points of light shine the brightest.
Back to MIAS Wired, it’s important to think about it not just as a stop-gap, but a potential additional platform or expression of the auto show even if conditions allow the physical holding of the spectacle.
Said co-organizer Alvin Uy, “We’ll most likely continue with the virtual package for exhibitors to extend the range of the event to make it national and even international. On the national level, it helps to promote car buying in provincial dealers of the exhibitors; the international presence benefits the strong car-buying market composed of OFWs.”
Underscored Mr. Ang, “We plan to continue offering this feature even when the onsite MIAS returns, hopefully next year. We think that this type of hybrid show may be the key to getting more visitors and allowing them to connect effectively to the automakers.”
MIAS Wired also had the expected complement of activities and spectacles such as the Classic and Custom Car Competition, the Formula V1 Virtual Cup and Formula V1 Fantasy League, Road Safety Academy by JP Tuason, virtual booths, 3D showrooms, and more.
I had the honor of digitally participating in a “watch talk” with Calibre Magazine Editor-in-Chief Carl Cunanan and watch aficionado Leonard Sytat.
For sure, nothing will replace the sight, smell, and sensation of a real live event, but given the limitations that the pandemic necessitates, MIAS Wired surely delivered a spectacle that showed us we can have our cake and eat it, too — even if it is a smaller slice.
Yes, we’ll take it.