Belfast Motor Show: Fans left disappointed and irate over 'rip-off' car event
It was billed as a petrol-head's nirvana – but car enthusiasts have been left distinctly unimpressed by the first major motor show to be held in Belfast in more than a decade.
Organisers of the Belfast Motor Show were lambasted by scores of angry customers demanding refunds yesterday after the two-day event was branded "a shambles", a "joke" and a "waste of money".
Thousands of visitors flocked to the King's Hall Pavilion on Saturday and Sunday after being promised "an action packed weekend with all aspects of motoring under one roof and a full programme including exhibitions, motoring experts, demonstrations, celebrity guest appearances, hands on fun, entertainment, stunts and more".
But throughout the weekend many visitors took to the internet to vent their anger, branding the £10 entrance fee a waste and the show as "underwhelming" and a "rip-off".
When the Belfast Telegraph visited the show yesterday, around 30 customers were waiting for refunds.
A statement from Kerrie Mann, organiser of the Belfast Motor Show, said: "Many people seemed to enjoy the variety that was on offer at the show and had a really good time.
"We are sorry if some people did not enjoy the event."
Daron Brown, the owner of TMC Motorsport in Dundonald, said he had "seen a better selection of cars at the sea front car park in Bangor on a Sunday".
"Being in the motor sport business I was excited to learn of the Belfast Motor Show being revived at the Kings Hall, promising to be 'Northern Ireland's biggest motor show'," he said. "My son and I arrived with great expectations as I remembered the motor shows at Kings Hall when I was a child were great."
Mr Brown told the Belfast Telegraph: "there were no manufacturers there and none of the big dealers had any cars".
"There was no BMW, no Porsche, no Ferrari, no Mercedes, no Bentley, it was beyond embarrassing," he said.
"We reached the gateway to the main King's Hall building having been confused that all of the back and side doors were locked. We asked at the gate security how we got into the main hall only to be told that the main halls were not in use and that the cars we had seen on the way down were all that was on show," he added.
"I almost fell over."
The Belfast Motor Show, also billed as a family fun day out, made its debut this year and marked the first time a motor show had been held since 2002.
There were demonstrations and an appearance by former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik – but it was the variety of cars on show that seems to have been the cause of disappointment.
Ramesh Sharma from Portadown was among those who spoke to the Belfast Telegraph while attending the event yesterday.
"It is very disappointing. Absolutely terrible," he said.
"There are very few cars in there. A couple of them are classic cars, some police cars, no main dealers whatsoever.
"You don't have BMW, Honda, Vauxhall...
"There are two De Loreans you would see at any classic vintage show, a little Mazda MX5 that goes to all the shows and an old BMW E46 which is maybe 12 years old.
"There is a £230,000 sports car, which seems to be the main show event – a M600 Noble. That's it.
"There is more to see at the dealers on the Boucher Road.
"We were expecting a show like what it used to be like at the King's Hall 10 years ago where you had two floors and you could spend the day walking about.
"I feel for families coming down and paying a fortune to get in. So many people have complained today it is unreal.
"There must have been 25 people at the door who were very irate and very disappointed."
Brendan Mullan from Belfast said he was hoping to see big motoring brands and upcoming models.
"It has been absolutely shambolic," he said.
"There are about three half decent cars in there and other cars, not old enough that you would class as vintage and there was a load of what you would call bangers.
"We actually walked up to the main King's Hall thinking that was where the motor show was, only to be turned away and told 'No, you've just left the motor show'."
Road racer Maria Costello, however, tweeted about how much she enjoyed the event.
"Great time at the Belfast Motor Show on the Emerald Road Racing stand. Loads of poster signing and selfies. I even met Iron Man!" she said.
'You could see better on Boucher Road for nothing'
As complaints about the Belfast Motor Show mounted on social media yesterday, Amanda Ferguson visited to see first-hand what was on offer
'It needed more bling.' That was perhaps the response I got that best summed up why the Belfast Motor Show was perceived to be so flat for many of the thousands of visitors at the weekend.
As I arrived at the King's Hall Pavilion for Belfast's first big motor show in over 10 years, I thought I would be dazzled by an array of top quality marques.
I have to say I was a little taken aback by the limited selection.
The most impressive car I saw was an M600 Noble, with a price tag of more than £200,000.
There was a Mitsubishi, a Honda motorbike, a Kawasaki motorbike, a Mazda MX5, a Road Safety Partnership van, a Robin Hood kit car, and a couple of De Loreans – made in Belfast and made famous by the Back to the Future movies.
At the outside display area I had initially assumed was the public car park, I spied two Maseratis, some Nissans and Peugeots, one Honda, a Fiat 500, an Alfa Romeo, a couple of Skodas, some camper vans and lorry cabs and a tractor shaped bouncy castle. As I took a stroll round the surprisingly small building the show was staged in, I noted stalls for PSNI road education, outdoor karting, car products, crisps and cupcakes.
The main dealerships and car manufacturers you would perhaps expect at 'Northern Ireland's Biggest Motoring' event were conspicuous by their absence.
Two traders who did not want to be identified said they had sympathy for the organisers. One said: "The organisers are great, I couldn't fault them, but people didn't turn up. People were effing and blinding about it."
No customer the Belfast Telegraph spoke to in an hour at the show was completely satisfied.
Marc Irvine from Lisburn said: "There is nothing here. Normally (at shows hosted in the past) all the car dealers and manufacturers have stalls here with all their latest models and you get to get into the cars, you get to take them on test drives and you get wee goodies, the whole lot. This is random stalls and a couple of cars."
Marty Wilson from Dunmurry said: "You could go down the Boucher Road and see better cars for nothing."
Janice Sharma from Portadown said the £10 entry was too high.
"We paid £40 for four of us. We have seen 18 cars and the rest is all trying to sell you something. It's been diabolical. We asked for our money back and were given £20 back two and a half hours later."
Robbie and Debbie Malcolm and their children Cara and Ryan also left disappointed.
Robbie said: "There is not enough but we made the most of it. The kids loved Titan the robot and getting their photographs taken with the superheroes.
"A friend running a stall said it was worthwhile for him. It's just a pity they didn't have more. It needed more bling."
Brian Jennett from Lurgan said his group of four walked around in less than ten minutes.
"We are car enthusiasts. Four of us drove down from Lurgan. It cost us £40. We literally walked round it in less than 10 minutes.
"Less than 20 cars and if you take out the cars that are doing demonstrations like child safety and police cars there wouldn't be 10. I feel ripped off. It is an absolute disgrace."