Are you familiar with the IAA (Frankfurt Motor Show) in Frankfurt am Main/Germany? Then you have probably already visited this once major trade fair yourself in the past or followed the reports in the media. Every two years, all the world’s major car manufacturers met here to present new models and concept cars. However, the last two editions in 2015 and 2017 already showed a noticeable decline in exhibitor numbers, which now continued to the extreme in 2019. Almost all international brands cancelled their appearance. Only a few well-known names remained: BMW, Mini, Alpina, Opel, Land Rover, Jaguar, Honda, Renault, Ford, Wey, Hongqi, Byton, Artega, Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Maybach, Smart, McLaren, Polestar, Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, Škoda, Lamborghini and Porsche. The halls under the Messeturm in Frankfurt are correspondingly quite empty.
This becomes already clearly evident in Hall 3.0, which is classically occupied by the Volkswagen Group. In addition, the organisation team of the trade fair has to put up with the question of how (at least on the press day) to lay the carpet between the stands in such a wavy way that everybody constantly had to watch out for the next steps. Between the exhibition areas of Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, Škoda, Porsche and Lamborghini, the hall left enough free space to play football without danger of hitting expensive metal. Audi presented various electrically powered concept cars and the new sports models RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback. Meanwhile, the Volkswagen area was completely influenced by the current wave of electric cars. The new ID.3 production vehicle made its world debut together with a modernised ‘sound logo’ and a revised brand color scheme. Anyone expecting the new eigth-generation Golf in Frankfurt will be disappointed. Next door at Seat and their sporty subsidiary brand Cupra, there were only a few cars and a lot of more modern technology. For example, a 3D printer produces small flower pots for visitors. Porsche also jumps on the electric train and wants to compete against the top dog Tesla with the Taycan Turbo and Taycan Turbo S. What they thought when naming an electric car a ‘Turbo’ is probably not even really known in their in-house marketing department.
Škoda is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Octavia and, in addition to the current model generation, is also showing an original car from 1959. While a book of condolence for the recently deceased former boss Ferdinand Karl Piëch is displayed in a corner at the Volkswagen stand, Lamborghini honors this great gentleman of automotive history in a somewhat more independent way. The 63 units of the new Sián hybrid supercar, that makes its debut at the IAA, now bear the additional name ‘FKP 37’ for Piëch’s initials and year of birth. However, possible interests don’t need to worry about the purchase price, as the 819 hp strong sports car was sould out long before the show premiere. Even more empty than in Hall 3.0 is the view in Hall 2 and the adjacent Festhalle. Mercedes-Benz has been residing here during the IAA for many years with all its subsidiaries – and there were a few within the years. After all, Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Maybach and Smart are present here in 2019. Nevertheless, the structure in the high dome of the Festhalle is only half as wide and much less complex than usual. Apart from that, the surrounding fixed seating of the hall wasn’t covered and consequently Mercedes also didn’t show too many cars. People who visited many editions of the IAA are not really familiar with such conditions, but this year’s visitors will have to get used to these views as they continue on the rest of the tour.
In our virtual tour we make a jump to the other end of the exhibition center and into Hall 11, which has been the BMW counterpart to the Mercedes area in Hall 2 and Festhalle since its inauguration about six years ago. Here, the Bavarian brand was at home together with Mini and Rolls-Royce, whereby the British noble company didn’t arrive here in 2017. On a complex circuit BMW showed the respective novelties in the course of the entire show time in motion. This can no longer be said for 2019. The company’s own presence was significantly reduced, the stand of Mini can be found in a small corner of the hall and Rolls-Royce once again stayed at home in Goodwood. The remaining square meters in the hall were given to Alpina, Opel, Hyundai, Land Rover and Jaguar as well as the experts for armoured cars, Trasco.
While BMW is once again showing how wide the kidney grille can grow with the new X6 and the eye-catching Concept 4, Alpina puts the new B3 Touring with all-wheel drive into the spotlight. Next door at Opel the first electrically powered rally car Corsa e-Rally is shown. Its pure existence is controversially discussed by fans of the corresponding motorsport. Hyundai presents a classic designed concept car with electric drive and Jaguar a further developed I-Pace. Meanwhile, the new Defender presented at Land Rover can be regarded as one of the few highlights of the show and at the same time as a bitter disappointment. The British brand want to inherit their original model and have interpreted it in a modern way. However, one can certainly think out loud about the extent to which an off-road vehicle with low profile tires will be able to cope with the tasks placed on it in the rough off-road sector. His grandfather is probably rolling into the African bush crying out loud right now. Brabus is showing how to do better on the outside area with a converted Mercedes-Benz G 500 4×4² with 700 hp and off-road tires. Outside, there are also pavilions by McLaren and Polestar as well as a mini stand of Renault, where the trade fair premiere of the new Captur takes place open air. Meanwhile, Honda is showing the production version of their small electric car ‘e’ in Hall 8, while next to it the Chinese manufacturer Hongqi presents the 1,400 hp hybrid supercar S9 with V8 and electric engine.
The ‘New Mobility World’, which can only be found in Hall 5.0 until 15 September, features a classic Cobra replica as well as the stand of the Artega brand from Delbrück near Paderborn/Germany. In addition to the further developed chassis of the upcoming Scalo Elletra electric sports car, the stand also features the small electric car Karo, which Artega has further developed from the Microlino and which will soon arrive on the road. There are also a few cars in the supplier hall Hall 9, for example an SUV study by San Yuan from China or an electric roadster by supplier Sekisui. The latest vehicle from Isdera, the Commendatore GT, is also on show for the first time in Europe after its world debut last year in Shanghai.
From our point of view, what remains is the most worthwhile hall of the IAA 2019. In Hall 4.0, Motorworld organised the ‘IAA Heritage’ with various dealers of classic cars and exotic cars as well as two special exhibition areas. One of those was dedicated to the 110th anniversary of the Bugatti brand, which car fans may painfully miss in the VW Group Hall 3.0. Although the exhibited Type 57 Atlantic and Type 41 Royale are only well made replicas, this sight undoubtedly delights many car enthusiasts. The topic for the second special exhibition is Ferrari. Shown are a 250 GT California Spyder SWB, a 250 Testa Rossa and a 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’, three vehicles in the colors of the German flag. The rest of the tour through this hall is also worthwhile for all car fans who still have petrol instead of electricity in their blood. Our picture gallery may serve as a little incentive. One floor up, a Ford Capri RS in best condition is hiding at the rear end of Hall 4.1.
Our conclusion this year: If there wouldn’t be the Heritage show in Hall 4.0, we would have to seriously advise against visiting the IAA. Those who expect high-class sports cars, luxury cars and rare exotic cars in the normal halls will almost without exception be disappointed. Likewise, the few remaining manufacturers seem to be almost ashamed that they still offer cars with petrol or diesel engines and hide them somewhere on their stands. However, as long as politicians in many countries continue to promote the spread of electric vehicles without going into the environmental hazards posed by batteries and electricity production, the picture remains the same. In addition, the current youth seems to be more interested in protests against the motor show than in cars at the IAA. Too bad, because we have to ask the question, whether there will be a new edition of the IAA for passenger cars in 2021?
Images: Matthias Kierse