By Ben Armstrong | UK
Images/Video: Connects2 Team
This September, we travelled to Frankfurt for the opening of Europe’s biggest automotive show, the IAA. With electric technology truly breaking into the mainstream, we expected a change of atmosphere from its last iteration. Here’s what we saw in Germany…
“The desire that guides me in all I do, is the desire to harness the forces of nature to the service of mankind” – Nicola Tesla
The automotive world is changing rapidly, irreversibly. Although the industry has always been on an upward curve, 2017 is the year when home truths – specifically in relation to a dwindling supply of unsustainable fossil fuels – have been recognised by governments all around the world. The UK and France will ban petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 and China have expressed intent to do the same – a move which, with large countries in support, could start a chain reaction and completely change the industry.
The goalposts have been moved, definitively, from progress in petrol and diesel technologies to electric and whilst this is undoubtedly a great coup for the planet, it brings with it a series of extremely difficult challenges. Swaying public opinion on electric vehicles is one thing, but building an effective infrastructure which can sustain the increasing demands of drivers is another. The IAA, Frankfurt’s premier motor show and the largest in the world, found itself in the centre of this dilemma, in what was a markedly different event to those which have come before, not just in the content of the exhibitions but in the entire atmosphere of the halls in which they stood.
In a year of such change, it’s hard to ignore the glaring omissions of key automotive manufacturers in Frankfurt this year. Peugeot, DS, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Nissan, Infiniti, Chrysler, Chevrolet and Volvo were all notably absent, as well as Mitsubishi, who traded in their usually mammoth-size stand for a humble red tent located outside the main entrance. The harsh reality of the IAA is that, to complete with the native manufacturers, the Audi’s, BMW’s and Mercedes Benz’s of this world, is to be outdone and with the increasing development costs of electric and autonomous technologies biting many, sometimes it’s best to sit back, plan and strategise. In truth, any fears of the show being lacklustre for the amount of absentees were quickly squashed moments after walking into the Messe. Despite the media spin, the IAA is the IAA – always impressive, always awe inspiring and always important; despite a shifting landscape, 2017 proved to be no different. With Timmy the Toucan in tow, here’s what we saw at Frankfurt this year.
The big hitters of the show didn’t fail to impress this year; each of them took up a lot of hall space and maximised it. In Halle 11.0, BMW presented a stand which you could plausibly live in for an afternoon, featuring a few gimmicks but with the focus mostly on the cars themselves. In order to give visitors a full and focused BMW experience, they included a sit-down theatre complete with a stage, smoke machines and many large screens. The performance aired almost continuously throughout the day and saw each class of BMW get a moment to shine with tens of drivers racing onto the stage in sequence. The combination of the music and stage show was extraordinary and really sold the differences between models (from loud, brash and powerful, to subtle and delicate), making this one of the most effective marketing set-pieces of the IAA.
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As the morning came to an end, we headed over to Opel’s stand in Halle 8.0 which effortlessly combined their popular car design with a focus on lifestyle. Utilising their bold yellow and black colour scheme, Opel really pushed the boundaries of what is possible on a mid-sized stand, including a full climbing wall (if you got to the top, you won a free Opel ceramic mug), and a line of chefs preparing fresh food (and marketing materials) for hungry guests. Walls of Opel Accessories merchandise lined the walls of the stand, encouraging us to be active and live a healthier life, whilst the new Insignia Gsi and Grandland X garnered lots of attention from all who walked by. Overall, Opel created something truly special at the IAA, using the space to create an environment suitable for people of all ages and with a wide range of interests.
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The only large manufacturer from the USA this year was Ford, although they had more than enough mileage to make up the numbers. In addition to their new facelifted Ecosport and Mustang models, Ford’s centrepiece was a walk-through journey detailed the history of the Fiesta, one of the world’s most loved car models with over 16 million sales since 1976. As we walked across the stand, we were treated to a display model of each generation of Fiesta, totalling seven, as well as literature explaining the specifications and background information of each model. As well as effectively selling the newest, best Fiesta – launched last year – the display solidified Ford as an important manufacturer and one who has consistently been evolving to match the needs of drivers. Although the original Fiesta is now a classic, it’s hard to debate that the newest variant is a more useful, safer and economical car, and will continue the Fiesta’s long legacy in auto-making.
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The last stand we saw at our time in Frankfurt was Mercedes Benz who took over the entirety of Halle 2.0. It really was a spectacle fit to end the show, with three floors, escalators, a lecture theatre and thousands upon thousands of people all flocking to see the latest statement cars from the legendary German manufacturer. Amongst the new releases from Mercedes this year were the X-Class Pick Up, a vehicle which bills itself as the ‘first pickup from a premium manufacturer’ and an attempt to fuse rugged/all-terrain and lifestyle/families applications, the S-Class Coupe/Cabrio Facelift, an update on the Bentley Continental GT’s nearer rival, and the AMG Project One, the company’s fastest ever hypercar. With so many new vehicles and such a large hall in which to operate, all eyes were on Mercedes to deliver this year at the IAA – they didn’t disappoint. The stand experience perfectly encapsulated the reason we all still go to trade shows; to be amazed, inspired and enlightened.
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Read about our trip to IFA 2017 here
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