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Indego / IndeGo Forum / IAA Frankfurt Show 2011

IAA Frankfurt Show 2011

 

Sunday, 18 September 2011 22:37

The Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) was – as usual – an extravagant affair with huge stands, big crowds (even on the Press Days), and a massive amount of product.

 

The Messe show ground is one of the biggest on the global motor show circuit, and the German manufacturers take advantage of this with huge stands.  Mercedes uses the original hall which once presumably housed the entire motor show, but now only contains part of the Mercedes display.  Their press conference was predictably spectacular

.Mercedes_Press_Conference

 

BMW had moved to take over a new stand that has been built at the opposite end of the show ground, and like Audi, had included a test track within their stand.  Whilst a 400 metre track on a motor show stand is quite impressive, it did not really allow anyone to evaluate the car.  By contrast, the much smaller, simpler, facility that allowed customers to try out the Parking Assist feature on Fords was arguably more useful.  The Audi hall was purpose-built on the site previously used by BMW.  There’s a great video on YouTube of the construction.

 

Perhaps the most striking feature for me was the fleet of electric and hybrid cars from various manufacturers providing the shuttle service around the Messe show ground for the press and other interlopers.  Two shows ago (2007) none of these cars were in the manufacturers’ cycle plans, I suspect that few of them were even approved at the time of the last show.   But faced by rising oil prices, tighter emissions standards and changing consumer taste, the industry has moved quickly.

 

Having said that, highlight of the Porsche stand for me was their reconstruction of the 1900 Lohner-Porsche series hybrid – not much sign of lightweight materials, and accommodation wasn’t spacious, but proof that there’s nothing new under the sun.

 

Lohner_Porsche_Hybrid

 

In the same huge hall, the Volkswagen Up looked a bit too conventional for me.  Some clever packaging has allowed good accommodation in a small package, but the early publicity had as expecting more.  However, from a market perspective, this will be the first time for many years that VW (and the other Group brands) have had what looks to be a truly competitive car in the small “A” segment, so as long as VW has got the costs right, this will cause upset as manufacturers fight for market share.

 

VW_Up

 

Not sure about the wave of city car concepts – from VW, Audi and GME – following on from the Renault Twizy which will be on sale in just a few months.  The small size and limited seating capacity reduce weight which has positive spin-offs in terms of battery size and recharging time, and will also reduce cost.  However, will people actually buy these micro-cars, or is it just something that they would hire through a car-sharing scheme?

 

Opel_rak_e

 

Hyundai and Kia continue to lead the Korean charge – Chevrolet (formerly Daewoo) hasn’t caught up in design terms yet.  Still some work to do for General Motors if Opel is moving up-market, and Chevrolet is to take over in the value segment.  It seems unlikely that the Kia GT will ever see the light of day, but it is a sign of growing self-confidence.  The design reminded me of one of my favourite cars from teenage years – the Lamborghini Espada – never thought I’d make that comparison with a Korean car!

 

Kia_GT

 

Highlight of the BMW stand for me was the i3 concept, formerly the Megacity.  The concept includes many of the features we included in the IndeGo concept, including micro-manufacturing, the modular product architecture and some mobility element rather than pure ownership.  Anticipated pricing looks to be high, but the good new is that the concept challenges many conventions which has to be good for the industry when it is backed by a major player like BMW.

 

BMW_i3

 

Less impressive was the Mini Coupe.  Not sure how the styling on this one got signed off for production.

 

Mini_Coupe

 

Jaguar Land Rover put on a confident show with two variant of their DC100 concept to replace the Defender and the stunning CX-16 sports car concept.  Whilst CX-16 is a great looking car, what Jaguar really need is the product that allows them to follow the premium trend down into smaller segments.  The B and C segment cars now make up around two thirds of premium European sales.  We hear it’s coming, but it will be hard for Jaguar Land Rover and their dealers to achieve sustained profitability without the volume lift that these smaller cars will bring.  DC100 is also visually a huge success, modern, but clearly still a Defender.  However, key to success is not just the styling and the off-road capability, but how much punishment it can take, and how easily it can be repaired in remote locations.

 

A final mention for Volvo  In the same few days that SAAB succumbed to bankruptcy proceedings, they were at Frankfurt with their You concept which showcases their Scalable Platform Architecture.  For Volvo this is not new thinking – I had the pleasure of being involved with them when they were developing the P2 platform in the mid-90's which covered everything from S60 to the XC90.  Even with the backing of Geely, and favoured access to the Chinese market, Volvo still needs to be innovative to succeed as a smaller independent player.  I wish them well.

 

Volvo_You

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