After a stifling three-year hiatus, the Melbourne National 4×4 Show, one of the key consumer and industry events for the Australian 4WD sector, came back last August with an exhibition at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds.

But despite great displays, solid audience attendance, and a diverse showing of the best brands and products the Australian 4×4 aftermarket industry has to offer, something was conspicuous by its absence: car brands.

Held at the Melbourne Convention Centre in the city for many years, the Melbourne National 4×4 Show moved in the mid-2000s to the Showgrounds in Ascot Vale where it ran every year up until 2020, when the dreaded pandemic and Victoria’s ensuing lockdowns saw it cancelled for two consecutive years.

Heralded for many years as Australia’s biggest and best 4×4 show, the event is now rivalled by the Brisbane National 4×4 show, run by the same promoter, and the Perth 4WD and Adventure Show put together by another firm.

As such, the event is regularly attended by the four pillars of the 4WD aftermarket industry: ARB 4×4 Accessories, Ironman 4×4, TJM Equipment, and Opposite Lock.

They’re supported by a wide range of companies spanning the off-road, outdoor, camping, and other ancillary industries.

Over the years we have seen a weakening of the fishing and boating component, but the support garnered by the 4WD industry has continued to diversify and strengthen, bringing the recent Melbourne show to the fore with a record number of visitors and square metres of display sites.

While the show for many is the pinnacle presentation and display forum for the aftermarket industry, it has also been an important launching point for manufacturers, with numerous brands on display. Yet last year there was a noticeable lack of manufacturers present, with only one in attendance.

In a lonely hall, located in the far north-west corner and quite remote from the main display halls, was a small inconspicuous display for Isuzu D-Max and MU-X.

On first thought, it was perceived that the manufacturers had boycotted the show based on the current 4WD vehicle availability shortage, where massive demand and weak supply is pushing prices up and wait times way out on numerous popular vehicles.

Why would any manufacturer need to be present at the show? People are desperate to get their hands on vehicles and, when it comes to four-wheel drives, that desperation is reaching a fever pitch amongst highly sought after brands such as Toyota. And, in that case, so much so, that Toyota Australia has paused all orders on the popular 70 Series with record levels of global demand and, unfortunately for Toyota and consumers, a global shortage.

Isuzu should be credited for its continuing support of the 4WD community and possibly that’s one of the reasons its sales are strong.

In my opinion, manufacturers should be present at events like this to garner community confidence and brand loyalty whilst instilling some confidence in the directions of our new vehicle industry, particularly amidst the post-pandemic mess of vehicle shortages, inflated prices, and the ups and downs of the EV scene.

So how did the lack of vehicle manufacturers impact the event? For all intents and purposes it didn’t, and for two main reasons.

Firstly, there were numerous aftermarket stands featuring their latest accessories for key market-leading brands with a particular focus on the new Ford Ranger and Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series. So visitors had plenty to ogle in the new category and there was also no shortage of most other current champions such as the Y62 Nissan Patrol, Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series and the typical splattering of popular dual cab 4x4s.

Secondly, and as mentioned above, considering the ridiculous current disaster of supply and demand, there is no real reason or need for them to be there.

Yet as bastions of the industry and the central point of the booming 4×4 aftermarket accessory business, there’s a definite argument that they should have been in attendance to support the community, strengthen their brands and demonstrate their commitment towards future growth, ongoing sales and diversification of the 4×4 industry.

As a passionate 4WD enthusiast, I would have liked to see them there, garnering their support for our community and demonstrating a more unified front as we exit an unheralded time period of challenges brought about by the pandemic. Let’s hope we see their return at future events!

Straight off the back of a successful (and recently returned to) Sydney National 4×4 Show, the recent Melbourne event has clearly signified a return to normal, and 2023 is set to be a huge year with Brisbane running in mid March and Sydney and Melbourne booked again for later in the year.

If you are interested in seeing the latest models draped in the finest accessories and ready for any adventure, then maybe we will see you at one of these events.

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