The cautionary example is Detroit. The home of the major US automakers was once also renowned for the Detroit Motor Show. But manufacturers’ interest in showing off their cars at the event declined and people started preferring to go to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas instead. Then there was the attempt to move the motor show from cold January to warm summers and to hold the whole thing as an open-air event about mobility — as well as cars. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has halted the experiment for the past two years — and whether it will click in the coming years remains uncertain.
The International Motor Show (IAA) faces a similar fate. Two years ago in Frankfurt, a city the trade fair had called home for almost seven decades, it became clear that the concept of simply putting cars in exhibition halls and waiting for the crowds to pour through the gates no longer really works.
Obviously, the car as such has lost a lot of its pull, even in Germany, the country of the automobile. Even if — given the pandemic — people prefer to sit protected in their cars rather than on overcrowded trains, the congestion in city centers and the ever-growing concern about climate change, it is clear that if a car is to be used, then it should be one with the lowest possible emissions. Or as one of many options for getting from A to B.
One trade fair — two locations
In order to save the IAA and perhaps to spare it the foreseeable fate of Detroit, the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), — the organizer — is now trying to break free, with a new name — IAA Mobility — a new location, Munich, and a new concept. It has also split the fair into two connected parts. One, on the exhibition grounds, is in the east of Munich and the other in popular squares in the city center.
Two things stand out first: The exhibition grounds are nowhere near fully booked. Three of the twelve halls are completely empty, three others are filled with vintage cars — and lots of bicycles! That should at least go down in IAA history because there are more bicycle manufacturers than car manufacturers at the start in Munich. But — and this is the new thing about the IAA concept — it no longer wants to focus on the car, but primarily on ‘urban mobility.’ The focus is on “solutions on the way to climate neutrality,” VDA boss Hildegard Müller told DW.
On the first of the two preceding press days, the focus was on cars. While work was still going on in the city center on the exhibition areas known as Open Spaces, the car manufacturers were allowed to present their latest models and concept studies outside at the trade fair to the world press (which, due to COVID-19, is also present in significantly smaller numbers than in the past).
And that in turn in drastically reduced exhibition areas compared to previous years, when Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and BMW had entire exhibition halls for themselves.
From small to very large cars
The car that Volkswagen presented in Munich was also small, namely the concept study of a fully electric city car called the ID.LIFE. The car, planned to be launched in 2025, is aimed at young customers and will cost around €20,000 ($22,500). Mercedes Benz revealed a much bigger concept car, the Mercedes Maybach EQS, with which the carmaker wants to offer a glimpse of the first fully electric Maybach series model. This is more a model for those Mercedes customers for whom the S-Class (which is already available as an EQSpowered by electricity) is not classy enough. Also on display at the Mercedes stand is a ‘GT 63 SE Performance,’ produced by the carmaker’s high-performance unit AMG, with a total of 843 hp (200 of which are powered by two electric motors) and a top speed of 316 km/h.
In spite of this, Daimler boss Ola Källenius said in a DW interview that Mercedes was “becoming increasingly electric and will travel most of the road to zero emissions in this decade.”
All new vehicles that Mercedes Benz will develop from 2025 onwards will be 100% electric. That probably explains the Mercedes trade fair appearance in front of the historic Feldherrnhalle in Munich, where workers were still very busy on Monday spreading a green turf on the large stage the company had set up there.
The concept car that BMW is presenting in its hometown appears exciting: The iVision Circular is to be made from 100% old material and renewable raw materials and, at the end of its vehicle life, will be largely recyclable.
Protests over the weekend
The new IAA, which will last just under a week, is also part of an experiment under the motto: How to save a trade fair from going under? The computer trade fair Cebit, which was discontinued a few years ago, also tried everything possible to remain relevant, including organizing a show event in the summer. As is well known, it didn’t work.
It should be very exciting to see how the Munich IAA concept is received by exhibitors and visitors. And what happens at the weekend when tens of thousands of IAA opponents start their protests in Munich, from bike rallies to blockades? The Bavarian police plan to muster 4,500 officers so that the fair can still go ahead undisturbed.
The article has been adapted from the original German