Munich Mobility Show Promises Futuristic Concepts, But Not Much For The Car Buyer

International car shows were thought to be a thing of the past, on their way to oblivion before Covid-19 struck because of exorbitant costs and public disinterest, and finally put out of their misery by the industry’s coronavirus global shutdown.

Yet this week in Munich, Germany, there’s an event scheduled called the IAA

IAA
(Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung) Mobility motor show. The exhibition takes over the time slot in the calendar from the biennial but now deceased Frankfurt car show, and before you become too excited, get this description from IHS Markit

INFO
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“Reflecting the immense changes the automotive industry is currently undergoing, the show’s organizers have looked to create a new concept that is more dynamic, with an emphasis on practical demonstrations of technology rather than just the traditional static displays of vehicles,” IHS Markit said in a report.

In other words, if you’re looking to find what’s new and exciting in the world of cars and SUVs, you’re likely to be disappointed. As a veteran of the Geneva, Frankfurt, Paris, Detroit international car show shuttle, I found concepts were displayed by manufacturers which often had nothing new to offer except grandiose promises with little chance of ever seeing the light of a driveway. And in this “mobility” show, expect the usual corporate hype and bluster but with some familiar meaningless buzz words thrown in like ecosystem, bandwidth, holistic approach and disruptor.

According to Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Duisberg, Germany, the Munich event has failed to attract many foreign car makers, and the few showing up have a new product to sell. The core exhibitors are German and even these are showing mainly concepts.

“The fact that many car manufacturers are absent from IAA 2021 is a response to the presumed effectiveness of the event. Overall, the IAA seems to be planned as a kind of folk festival with discussion platforms and an attached trade fair. Bicycles, start-ups kid’s worlds, fitness arenas, vintage cars – a colorful mix instead of a clear focus,” Dudenhoeffer said.

Dudenhoeffer said it is ironic that a show with the fashionable idea of “mobility” at its core, usually meaning ways to denigrate the car and laud public transport, is taking place at the same time as what he called the “renaissance” of the automobile.  

“Individual means of transport such as e-scooters, bicycle or cars are becoming increasingly important. Mobility is again concentrating more on “individual mobility” that gives the car a new dimension,” Dudenhoeffer said.      

The Bloomberg news agency, in an article headlined “Auto shows are back and CEOs have deals to do” reminds us of the last big transaction when Groupe PSA merged with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), but these shows are the time when deals are actually announced after long-draw-out behind the scenes negotiations.

As for the new models on view, given that the mighty Toyota, all the brands relating to the PSA/FCA merger now known as Stellantis, and Nissan won’t be attending, that cuts down severely on the possibility of new models appearing.

IHS Markit, in its report, said VW, its premium subsidiaries Audi and Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes are unveiling a series of concept vehicles with much talk of autonomous transportation and electrification. Renault will unveil its electric Megane and its down-market subsidiary Dacia will unveil the Jogger, a 5-to-7 seater MPV.

There may of course be some surprise unveilings.

“The show’s organizers wanted to create a show that put the industry’s shift towards mobility provision at the forefront while moving away from the traditional static, range display motor show, with the focus on ‘innovations, not on complete product ranges.’ Instead of room for a full model line, there will be room for conferences, press slots and networking,” according to the report.

“While traditional motor shows have seen falling attendances in recent years, both in terms of (manufacturers) and visitor numbers, it is hard to base a show entirely around demonstrations and the somewhat nebulous concept of ‘mobility’,” the report said.

CAR’s Dudenhoeffer, turning to the overall health of the global industry which reported “dazzling” profits for the first half of this year, said it will come under much pressure in the second half because of the shortage of high-tech chips, the weakening world economy in general and the slowing of the car market in China. Dudenhoeffer said in a report earlier this year that this would lose the global industry the production of 5.2 million vehicles in 2021. After that another crisis will loom – a shortage batteries for the burgeoning electric car market.

“After the chip crisis, from 2024, an increasing global battery cell bottleneck must be expected,” Dudenhoeffer said.

Bear that in mind as manufacturers make big boasts about how electric and autonomous cars will transform their businesses.

IAA Mobility opens in Munich Sept 7 through Sept 12.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/neilwinton/2021/09/05/munich-mobility-show-promises-futuristic-concepts-but-not-much-for-the-car-buyer/

Nina Zatulini

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