Germany's leading car show no longer wants to be a horsepower parade

By DPA | 30 July 2021

MUNICH: No Opel, no Toyota - many prominent car manufacturers won't even be there: The once world-famous Frankfurt motor show IAA (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung or International Automobile Exhibition) wants a new start as a citizen-friendly street festival.

First of all, the city is about to change: Frankfurt to Munich.

From Sept 7-12, the show will no longer be all about cars. Instead, the theme will now be transport in general. According to the Munich trade fair, 50 bicycle manufacturers will also be represented at the new IAA Mobility.

"We are convinced that with the IAA we will show the world of mobility of tomorrow," said Juergen Mindel, the managing director of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), which is now organising the event together with the trade fair company.

The last edition of the IAA in Frankfurt in 2019 was met with major protests from environmentalists and a six-figure drop in visitor numbers.

At the same time, major car companies have taken a bigger interest in tech shows like the CES in Las Vegas, where they hope to flaunt their cars' new smarts.

However, environmentalists have again announced protests, accusing the car industry of greenwashing.

As in Frankfurt, the IAA is to be opened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. At the new IAA, however, parts of the event will be moved to the magnificent squares of Munich's city centre, including a concert stage.

"For the first time, visitors to the IAA will also be able to test a large number of new cars," said Mindel, adding that the manufacturers have planned more than 230 vehicles for this purpose.

Another attraction will be, among other things, "Germany's largest public fast-charging park" for electric cars, Mindel said.

According to Mindel, more than 500 manufacturers from almost 30 countries will be represented. Among them are Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, VW, Porsche, Renault and the Korean Hyundai Group, but also tech companies like IBM and the Chinese company Huawei.

The IAA is opening up to all mobility players, Mindel said - "cars, bicycles, scooters, but also classics."

But some of the most prominent names in the car industry will not be there: for example, Toyota will not be participating, according to a company spokesman.

The new Stellantis group, in which Peugeot/PSA and FiatChrysler have merged, will also be absent with all its brands, including its German subsidiary Opel, the company says.

The US group General Motors also does not have the IAA on its website on the list of trade fairs in which the company wants to participate, and has yet to confirm to us if it wants to be present.

Neither the VDA nor the Munich show gave concrete answers to questions about how many visitors they expect and which prominent companies will not be attending.

However, the organisers hope to be able to convince more exhibitors to attend the IAA again for the next edition in 2023. In 2019, 560,000 visitors had found their way to the IAA in Frankfurt, in 2017 it had been over 800,000.

The new IAA is also the first major international event to be held in Germany since the start of the pandemic. By contrast, the Munich Oktoberfest, traditionally held in the second half of September, has been cancelled for the second time.

In the city centre, the IAA is supposed to have a "happening, festival character," as trade fair manager Tobias Groeber says. But there are also sophisticated hygiene and security concepts for all areas of the IAA.