Based on the evidence of the Frankfurt IAA Show, you would find it hard to believe that we are still in the middle of a global recession. New models were to be found on just about every stand, and there was a surprising level of evident confidence from manufacturers, many of whom have had a financial roller coaster of a year. The show occupies the Frankfurt Messe, an enormous site, which takes a good 20 – 25 minutes to get from one side to the other. There are 11 Halls, and several of them had exhibits on more than one level. In addition, there were plenty of outdoor exhibits and activities, with everything from stalls selling food and drink, fairground style activities, an off-road course, demos of parking assistance technology to a hall where you could and rendez-vous with cars to test drive. One day is not enough to see it all, so it is just as well that I had two days, the outcome of which were some rather sore feet!Just as proved to the case in 2007, despite the fact that the Frankfurt Messe campus is huge, the show got very busy. So crowded, in fact, that it became almost impossible to move in a couple of the Halls, and Hall 6 (where all the Italian cars are to be found) was so unbelievably hot that I am sure that some of the stand girlies were grateful that they were relatively scantily clad! Even 15 minutes before the official closing of the show, there were still a lot of people in attendance. It was only after this point that it really emptied out and I could get some of the photos that accompany this report.
The over-riding theme of the show was definitely around matters “green” and emissions. Barely a manufacturer missed the opportunity of showcasing not just their latest models, with green credentials writ large, but also in revealing the technology that they are working on to make massive reductions in the carbon emissions of future vehicles. Whilst all the claims of zero emissions are very worthy, the point that the energy has to be generated somehow was somewhat obscured. Regardless, I felt very confident that personal automotive transportation is doing far more to put its house “in order” than many other producers of significant greenhouse gases and we should all be grateful for that.
On to the cars on show, here is a report, by brand, covering some, but by no means all of the things that caught my attention.
Three cars on the stand from this ever more confident Italian sporting brand, including the new “Ferrari” model, the 695 Tributo Abarth.
Once again, Alfa had most of their stand cars painted in metallic red. There was a huge meccano like contraption at the centre of the stand, too, which made it quite distinctive.
The 8C retains its role as a “halo car”, even though production of the 500 units of the coupe completed a while back and the 500 Spiders are long since sold out.
Hot news is the Multi Air technology that features in the MiTo and which will doubtless appear widely across the range in due course.
No sign at all of the 147 on the stand, but equally no sign of the much anticipated Milano replacement, either. I assume this is being saved for Geneva 2010.
Representatives of the 3,6 and 7 based Alpina cars were all on the stand.
This Cayman competitor has been around a few years now, and looks good. There were 4 cars at the show, but I’ve still never seen one on the road.
Only 2 cars on this stand, but what a pair! A V12 Vantage, and a Rapide. This latter is one of those cars which looks so much better in real life than it did in the pictures. Yes, the styling is very derivative of the other models in the range, but it works, and this car has an elegance that completely eludes the Panamera. Very nice indeed.
The V12 Vantage was getting plenty of attention, too.AUDI
In case you had forgotten, this is Audi’s centenary year. To mark the occasion, they had their 1936 streamlined racing car on the stand.
They also had an awful lot of other cars to see. Two of them were reserved for a special display area, access to which was only granted to a steady string of presumably important customers or prospects and their excited children or rather bored looking partners. Thus it was rare to find the area devoid of people, spoiling things for the photographer. The display comprised the new R8 spider and the eTron concept car.The A5 Sportback was attracting lots of attention. This really is just a hatchback version of the A4. Nevertheless, it has plenty of rear headroom and a large boot. Let’s hope that the aberrant suspension that bedevilled the press launch cars has been fixed.More familiar cars were also on show. Some new models featured, including this 1.2 litre A3. Will the market take to a badge denoting such a small engine?The latest S4 is now well established, and statically is as impressive as ever. I am still disappointed at the loss of the V8, which I note still features in the S5 coupe (though not for much longer).I could not resist these pics of the latest S6, of course! Audi were among many manufacturers showing cars in brown. Theirs was a particularly unpleasant shade, prompting me to christen this one “metallic shit”. Sadly, three cars were so emblazened: a Q7, a TT RS and an RS6 Audi’s success at Le Mans was reflected in the display of the R15 car, which was on a plinth on the upper level of the stand, and quite hard to get to see properly, let alone to photograph.BENTLEY
The very first stand I visited. Well, looked at from the other side of the non-customer barrier. Object of my curiosity, the new Mulsanne. Unsure of my views when I saw the pictures, I can declare that I don’t like it. Although I am sure the rear part of the car is supposed to evoke memories of the swooping tail of coachbuilt cars, on this one it just looks bulky and awkward. The front – those controversial headlights not withstanding is actually better!
Also on the stand was the Continental Supersports and the Continental GTC. BMW
BMW must have spent an absolute fortune at the show. Not only did they have the entirety of Hall 11 (albeit shared with Mini and Rolls Royce), but they have built a circuit around the perimeter of the hall, around which parades of cars – the New X1s (in horrid brown), the saloon and estates (in white and lots of “efficient dynamics” lettering) and X and Z cars – could parade. Race would be too strong a term, but they were too speedy to call it a procession!
Down on the ground, the biggest crowds were drawn by the Vision Efficient Dynamics car. I really did not think much of this in the photos, but when you see it for real, it’s stunningly impressive. A definite hit for me! Although BMW had a whole hall, it was packed all the time, so I found it hard to see many of the road cars. There was but a sole X1 – also in that nasty brown, but I simply could not get near it to look, let alone to photo. There was one outside, though.The same story applies to the 5 Series GT. There were a couple of these, and they were also proving very popular.
Sitting close to the latest 7 series cars was a 502 model from the late 1950s.
There was a stacked display on either side of the main stairs up to the second level, featuring some more historic cars.The M cars were tucked into one corner, with pride of place going to the X5M and X6M. Far more focus was made on the Efficient Dynamics message. BRABUS
A big stand, with cars that mix impressive engineering with rather questionable aesthetics! Highlight was the newly announced model based on the W212 E Class, complete with the enclosed rear wheels. There were lots of prospective purchasers getting very interested in this car. Only 10 will be made.
The rest of the stand comprised Brabus modifications to every current Mercedes type, including the Viano.CHEVROLET
The low budget Korean marque clearly could not afford presence in a hall, so featured in a small tent opposite Hall 8. Ignoring the rather tacky “how long can you kiss the Cruze for” contest that was going on, there were just 2 cars to see: the new Cruze and the forthcoming Spark. The latter is neat, the former looks nearly as awkward in reality as it did in the pictures.
Now part of the Fiat Group, this American maker had relocated to Hall 6, with the Italian brands. No new cars to see, but a new interior for the Caliber looked like a significant improvement. Now it is only sub par, as opposed to so far behind the competition that it is just a joke.
Other cars on the stand included the Journey. This has been on sale in the UK for over a year and I have yet to see one on the road. CITROEN
Big news here are the launches of the new C3 and its upmarket DS3 relative. I have to confess to being disappointed. The interior of both cars is remarkably similar and would not be bad were it not for the huge swathe of body coloured plastic on the dash very much in the style of the PT Cruiser. All the C3s had a panoramic windscreen feature, and I was intrigued to discover that there are sunvisors, and a rear view mirror, which then slide forward to a more conventional position.
The DS3 did nothing for me at all. The outside is a mix of various styling lines and creases. It might be available in a myriad of different trim and colour finishes. but that and size alone will not make it a competitor to the Mini. Citroen had several concept cars on their stand. The Revolte was clearly missing a final three letters on its name (-“ing”). Truly horrid!Far better was the GT, which is now expected to enter very limited production. This C4 rally car looked familiar, but under the skin, it had a revolutionary hybrid powertrain. Slated to appear in 2010, it will be interesting to see how it performs in such extreme conditions as the World Rally Championships. DACIA
Star billing here was a concept called Duster. New production model was the Stepway version of the Sandero hatch. There is little doubting the budget intent of these cars when you sit inside one – it all feels like being sent back 10 years or so, but if they allow reliable and efficient new car transport for people who would otherwise be deprived this, then so be it. And far better quality than the Chinese can muster, still, for sure. FERRARI
All the attention here, of course, was on the new 458 Italia. Without question, one of the stars of the show. There were 2 cars on the stand: a red one and a yellow one. The shut line on the bonnet of the yellow one does stand out rather badly, but otherwise, I (and everyone else whose comments I could hear) think this is a stunningly beautiful new car.
There were representatives of other models from the range – California, 612 and 599, but no-one seemed to be paying much attention to any of themFIAT
I wanted to see whether the facelift applied to create the Punto Evo is as bad in the metal as it is in the pictures. Whilst it probably is not, I still much prefer the original. The side rubbing strips are doubtless a practical addition, and the interior quality looks and feels somewhat higher, but I still cannot forgive the chav rear lights that have been added.
Examples of both the 500 and 500C constituted much of the Fiat stand, as you might expect.FISKER
Another showing for these expensive hybrid vehicles.
The new C-Max and Grand C-Max were making their world debut. Some months away from going on sale, there was a single example of each, mounted on adjacent turntables. I remain far from convinced about the back end of the Grand C-Max, which looks quite bulky, doubtless as it needs to accommodate those sliding rear door guides. The interiors did look like a significant improvement on the outgoing models, but it was not possible to go and play with the seat folding and all the other clever stuff which was praised by the press.
Ford were promoting their Econetic branding very heavily, with the launch of a new engine with impressively low CO2 levels in the Focus, getting under the magic 100 number. There were Econetic liveried models from the rest of the range, as well.There were huge crowds around the electric green Focus RS, but the ST was less well visited, and there was an example of the rally car, as well.HAMANN
Although there are less examples of the sort of “enhancements” in evidence at this show than you find at Geneva, there were more than plenty. Not my sort of thing at all!
No sign of Honda at the show. I can only assume that having perpetrated the execrable Accord Crosstour on the world, they were too embarrassed to show their face!
Whenever I went near this stand, which was located at the end of Hall 6, there was always lots of noise, from a compere who was trying to entertain people with everything from prize draws to a rather challenging set of “interviews” with 6 of the players from the local Frankfurt Bundesliga football team (whom Hyundai sponsor). It might have better to have concentrated on the cars. There were 2 concept vehicles, including this ix-Metro.
Also a concept was this Blue Will, presaging technology that we will see in 2012.New production model was the ix35, a replacement for the Tucson. Similar to a Ford Kuga, it looks marginally better than that car outside, and has a much better quality interior, though I suspect the Ford will prove the better car to drive. I felt rather disappointed that they have softened the styling from the Tucson into a sort of “faux-SUV-bland” creation.
The rest of the range was also on the stand.
This was a stand where you could only gain access by invitation. Surprisingly, there was but one new XJ on show, with a second one tucked away at the back that ordinary visitors could not see let alone inspect. There was remarkably little fuss being made on the stand about what it was. Is this because Germany will probably be the toughest market to crack with the three domestic rivals all having such a market strangle hold, I wonder? Regardless, I still think this is a stunning car, and I wish it well.
The only example of the nascent Chinese car industry was this brand, called Joytown on the stand, but China CAD on the show literature. Be that as it may, the 2 cars on the stand were clearly recognisable as the previous generation Toyota RAV4, but they were rather amusingly badged “UFO”. Build quality did not appear to be anything like as comical as most Chinese stuff, though the slop in the gearlever suggests that precision manufacturing may still have eluded the Chinese and there were rather too many exposed screw heads with sharp edges, still.
A large stand in the upper part of Hall 3, and one which was never more than slightly busy, Kia had plenty to show. Their brand new offering is the Venga, a competitor to the Meriva and Modus. Although not exciting, I thought this a well executed design. It is neatly styled and it has a good quality interior (more or less the same as the facelifted Cee’d). It is a roomy yet compact car. Definitely a “hit” among new cars.
The facelifted Cee’d (the changes do not apply to the 3 door) was on show, too. Outside, the new grille is the most obvious difference, but the interior has been improved, and there are new engines. With over a quarter million of these cars sold in less than 3 years, this has been a success for Kia and it deserves to continue that way.I was less convinced by the new Sorento. Previously I had only seen pictures of the front, and there it looks fine, but the back is a bit bland, though nowhere near as deserving of the savaging it got in Steve Cropley’s recent blog on ugly new cars.Kia were making much about emerging hybrid technology, and had a wide variety of cars and display items in support of this. The US-market Forte was one of the cars featured.The Soulster concept car was staging another appearance, but it was crammed in a corner along with a couple of production Soul models, and you could not help feel that it was not a priority in comparison to the “green” displays.The rest of the range was also on show, of course.LAMBORGHINI
Highlight of this three car stand was the Reventon roadster. I do wonder what its fate will be, as earlier this year it was noted that 35% of all the Reventon coupes made (ie 7 out of 20) were for sale, giving the lie to the fact that people will buy this purely because it is a great car.
A Gallardo and Murcielago were lurking at the back of the stand.
Nothing new on show here, but there was what was called a prototype “elle” version of the Ypsilon. Yes, that really is pale lilac coloured paint!LAND ROVER
A very busy stand, with examples of each model in both the “everyone” and the “invited” sections. The interiors of the latest cars are really beautifully presented and would be a very special place to travel.
Pride of place went to the much heralded LF-Ch concept car. It is as gawky in the metal as it is in the pictures. Even toned down for production, I cannot see the appeal of this. There were never that many people looking at it whenever I was on the stand.
The Evora has only just gone on sale, and so is still an unfamiliar sight. Two cars were on the stand, a road version and the recently announced 124 Competition car.
One of the show’s poignant reminders that money does buy you taste, this stand featured a series of super expensive cars that had been “modified”, some more offensively than others. Enough said!
On the plus side, this was the only Bugatti at the show, and what they had done to it was far less horrid than their other cars on show!MASERATI
New car here was the GranCabrio. Not very well displayed and finished in a dark colour, this looks good with the roof down, less so with the roof up.
The familiar Quattroporte and Granturismo cars were on the stand as well.MAZDA
Stand highlight was the Superlight version of the MX5.
Production versions still look good, and represent good value for money. I must drive one again soon, as it is many years since I last did.MELKUS
A little known marque, with a variety of bespoke sports coupes on show.
The entirety of Hall 2 is given over for Mercedes, Maybach and Smart. A display of the sort of cars that you can expect is to be found in a “show window”.
The area that at the last show was occupied by Chrysler was given over to a welcome reception desk serving glasses of water and a series of “2 car” displays, “old” and “new”.
The most interesting was a comparison of a Fuel Cell modern version of the original 1886 Benz.Inside the hall, the first car you come to is one of 2 SLS AMGs. I was very impressed by this car. It has real presence and just looks stunning. Far nicer than the McLaren SLR, to my eyes.There is another SLS AMG at the other end of the hall.The Fuel Cell technology that is under research features heavily, with several of the Concept cars that could deploy it on show.The premiere of the E Class Estate is an important occasion for Mercedes, and there are several of these cars on show, along with its related saloon and couple models. I still cannot get on with the front end of the W212 and the side profile of the Coupe, but the estate looks good and has lots of luggage space. It will sell well, to private and fleet customers and to reinforce this, there were police, ambulance and taxi liveried vehicles on show.
A full range of other production cars is on show across two levels of this huge hall. Tucked away, where few people would even see it, was one of the last McLaren SLR Roadsters. Definitely a case of being overshadowed by the new SLS AMG.Outside the hall, I found a display of 2 racing cars: a W25 and something rather more recent.Mercedes-Benz Classic is a new program offering for rent or sale, refurbished examples of classic Mercedes such as these, which were used as the static objects between which the A and B Class cars were demonstrating their park assist function (very clever!).MINI
A massive stand, which was just as well, as it was packed out. There was a 1967 original Mini there, but even this was constantly surrounded.
The two concept cars, Coupe and Roadster, were on separate plinths. I did not change my mind on seeing them: the roadster looks OK, the Coupe is simply not for me.
Another Japanese marque conspicuous by it absence.
The third absent Japanese brand.
A big stand, covering a significant part of Hall 8, making much of the launch of the new Astra. Only currently shown in 5 door hatch form, I have to declare this as one of the biggest disappointments of the Show. Although the inside is quite nicely done, in a style very reminiscent of the Insignia, and with a stupid electronic handbrake across the range, it is the outside which is just so dull and bland. The back looks very much like a blander Seat Leon, and the front is just, well, forgettable. The false floor in the boot was generating lots of interest, and plenty of action from the “minder” who was constantly setting it straight. With it in place, the boot is incredibly shallow. It does, however, have decent headroom in the back, unlike the Insignia.
In complete contrast was this example of the very first Kadett model, dating from 1938. Over 100,000 of these were made until production was suspended because of European hostilities. The Ampera was making another Show appearance.The Insignia is still a relatively new model, with the VXR Sport Tourer taking pride of place.More familiar models were relegated to the outside of the stand area. PAGANI
Tucked into a small stand area was Pagani, who had 2 of their Zonda models on show.
A large stand, with a particular focus on recent announcements and forthcoming “hybride” versions of many of the cars.
The 3008 is now on sale over Europe, and hits the UK very soon. A Hybrid version is coming
The 5008 is new. I was interested to see the “heads up” display capability, which appears rather unsightly from the outside!The 308 RCZ was on show in production car format. I hope I never have to ride in the back of one, as there looks to be no legroom at all. Back on the environmental theme, there were a couple of concept cars, one of which is instantly recognisable as the Mitsubishi i, the other of which is just plain weird.Among the more familiar cars, the recently facelifted 206+ seemed to be getting more attention than the 207 parked next to it. Perhaps people have figured that even with its facelift it is slightly less the ugly of the pair. No such comparison for the 207CC, which is also not a pretty car.PORSCHE
Porsche had the largest stand in Hall 5, along way away from the rest of the VAG Group. Unsurprisingly, this was one of the “hot spots” of the show, and although I rushed there as soon as the gates opened on the Sunday morning, it was still busy. I wanted to see the Panamera, like everyone else. I did see a convoy of them on the road in Germany back in May, so I knew that it does look a lot less bulky than in pictures and my impressions were reinforced. Whilst not classically beautiful, it does have lots of presence, and it clearly contains lots of impressive technology, as many of the stand displays revealed. I rather like it.
Representatives of the rest of the ever-growing Porsche range were on show, too, including the recently modified 911 Turbo cars. RENAULT
A large stand, with a massive focus on the “ZE”, or Zero Enission efforts that Renault are making, with the strapline that although they did not invent electric cars, they will be the first to enable us to drive them. In support of this, they had 4 concept vehicles of cars some of which they say we will be able to buy in 2012, and they had a mock up of how the quick replacement of a battery with a fully charged one would work.
Among the production cars, the Fluence was making its world debut. This is the Megane saloon that is not, and will I suspect be a slow seller in Western Europe. There was a Megane RenaultSport RS250, but it was always surrounded by the youth of the show, so I did not get any pictures.
Most of the rest of Renault’s range has recently been refreshed and there were examples of all these models on show, as well.
Highlight here, of course, was the new Ghost model. Supremely elegant, and although it s very obviously a Royce to look at, it is surprisingly different from a Phantom. I also thought it very elegant, and in the battle against the new Bentley Mulsanne, a clear winner.
Finally, the new 9.5 is here. This is one of the cars that I was not so sure about when I saw it in pictures, but which actually works better when you see it. It retains sufficient styling traits to be clearly a SAAB, but a lot of new thinking and features, too. I wish it well.
The only other recent new model is the 9.3X AWD Estate, a car designed to cash in on the current trend for raising the ride height and cladding the bottom of the vehicle with plastic. It works rather better here than it does on the Audi A4, I have to say, though I have little doubt that in most respects the Audi would prove to be better car to drive! SEAT
Clearly a thinly disguised version of next year’s Ibiza Estate, Seat were showing the IBZ, a concept car. Neatly executed, it looks rather better than some of the other small estate cars (Clio and 207 in particular).
The Exeo is still relatively new, even though its basis as the old B7 Audi A4 is less so. There was a Sport vesion of the ST (estate) model, with all the trimmings. There were plenty of the latest Ibiza, Leon and Altea cars to see, too. The Ibiza is now available with the Bocanegra front end treatment (for extra money).SKODA
Newly unveiled for the show is the Superb Estate. Visually very similar to the Octavia, this car looked impressive, with a quality interior feel and a very roomy luggage area. I wish it well.
This was the first chance to poke and prod at the production much-acclaimed Yeti, and I was also very taken with this car. Indeed, as practical family transport, I think of little better.Another recent addition to the range is the latest version of the Octavia Scout.SMART
Lots of these little cars were in a display area in the Mercedes hall. Of interest was this, an all electric model.
Lots of the new Legacy and Outback cars on show. Sporting a much improved interior (albeit with the dreaded electronic handbrake), the transformation of the outside now gives Subaru a full house of ugly horrors, as the Tribeca and Impreza had already gone down that route.
Given the absence of most of the other Japanese marques, it was a surprise to see Suzuki at the show. No new models (the Kizashi was not here), making the Alto the newest car on show.
The familiar SX4 was had some subtle upgrades to the body and new engines, but it is hard to tell the difference, visually. TECHART
Another of the after-market modifiers, the only one of their offerings that I photographed was this iQ.
Both the roadster and the saloon were on the stand, and there were several roadsters seen outside doing demo runs.
Much was being made of the hybrid technology popularised in the Prius. Coming soon is an Auris hybrid, and a prototype for this was on the stand.
There was a new Land-Cruiser, which looked just like the old one with an even uglier grille. No photos!
Other cars were more familiar, even if the liveries were not.
Having acquired a cult following, it was only inevitable that someone would produce a modernised version of this car, just as happened with Beetle, 500 and Mini.
A massive stand, as you would expect from Germany’s largest seller. No brand new models, but plenty of new derivatives were on show among all the BlueMotion logo-ed cars.
The Golf R looks pretty subtle.
As does the Scirocco RShow debut for the 3 door PoloAnd for the latest Golf Variant, the Mark VI nose on the back of the old model!Concept cars included the e-Up (what a name for Yorkshire folk!) and the incredibly tiny L1.There was also a facelift for the MultiVan/Transporter. VOLVO
With no sign of the new S60, it was left to the Concept version to draw the crowds. Reaction seemed very favourable, though I am personally not entirely convinced.
I am also not convinced by the facelift applied to the front of the C70 and C30, and I said so to one of the stand staff, who then went on to tell me that she was actually from Sweden, and she was struggling mixing languages up all day!WIESMANN
These BMW-powered roadsters and coupes have quite a following in Germany, and the show marked the launch of the new MF5 model, which was on display along with the MF3 and MF4.
Hall 9 contained a special display from the Association of German Motor Museums, with cars from various museums on show.
1931 Adler Standard 8 Limousine
1953 Goliath GD7501967 Glas 2600 V8
1900 Lux Tonneau
1939 Horch 930V
1960 Messerschmitt Tg500
1931 Simson Supra1926 Hanomag Mossissbrot1931 Roehr 8 Typ RA1939 Stower Arkona1958 Zuendapp Janus 2501961 Auto Union SP1000 Roadster1925 NSU 5/25 Boattail1973 Wartburg 353 “Knight”Another display was of cars with ambulance connections.The Fiat 600 stand had examples from Abarth, Seat and NSU on show.This 1899 car was called “Jamais Contente”. Electrically powered, it hit the dizzy heights of just a smidgeon over 100 km/h at the hands of the Belgian driver Camille Jenazzy.Among other classics, was this ADAC Beetle.