Frankfurt Auto Show – September 2011

The Internationale Auto Ausstellung, or International Auto Show in English, takes place in Frankfurt every other year,and it is one of the most important show cases for the world’s car makers to show off not just new product, but also some of the concepts on which they are working. It takes place at the Frankfurt Messe, a vast exhibition area which measures over half a mile from end to end. I went in 2007 and again in 2009, and although I very much enjoyed the experience, the vast crowds and the difficulty of getting accommodation led to me think that perhaps I would not bother in 2011. Then I spotted the fact that BA had a direct flight that would land around 10am, when the show opens and I could leave on one at 22:00 in the evening, giving me ample to get back to the airport (an easy journey involving 3 tram stops and 2 stops on the local S-Bahn train) after the show had closed. Booked a few weeks in advance the flight was a two digit sum of money, so it became a no-brainer to make a day trip, and I hoped that by going mid week, when the show had been open for a few days, the crowds would not be so bad.Well, the crowds were not as bad, but as you will read, they were still pretty daunting, which meant that there were some things I simply could not get to see. What ended up as a beautiful sunny day started out in Frankfurt as a very misty and foggy morning, so we were held at Heathrow for nearly an hour, which meant that it was nearer to mid-day than 11am when I reached the Messe. That gave me 7 hours to see the show – mission impossible given the riches on display, but I had a jolly good go. Here is what I saw:


Three cars on the Abarth stand, all new for the show: a 695 Competizione, a 500C Cabrio Italia and a Punto SuperSport. The last was not for me, as the styling modifications did not appeal, but I liked the other two.

Hmm. But far worse is to come….. be warned!

A definite show star for me was this, the Alfa 4C. Even better looking in this metallised finish than the odd matt pinky red paint that the car wore at Geneva, this is visually stunning. If they really can offer it for £40k, it should fly out of the showrooms.

The rest of the stand comprised MiTo and Giuliettas, all of which were constantly being poked and prodded, so no pictures.

Examples of the 3,5, 6 and 7 series based cars were all on show.



Aston-Martin had a vast stand, reflecting their ever growing range. One corner was occupied by the diminutive Cygnet.

The V12 Zagato was probably the most striking car on the stand.
Most valuable, though was the One-77.
There were examples of all the other production models, too.
Audi almost always have one of the busiest stands at any European motor show, so this year, instead of occupying a large corner of Hall 3 with the rest of the VW Group brands, they had their own separate construction in the central piazza area of the Messe. It was huge, but it was also unbelievably crowded. Even at 7pm, when I sneaked in to try to get a proper look at the new cars, especially the S6, S7 and S8, it was heaving, and I had to admit defeat. So, I canot tell you what I thought about them, as all I know is the first two were red and the S8 was silver.

I was able to see the A2 Concept, as it was on a turntable, and you could look down from on high.

The facelfited A5 cars were on show.
The crowds around this R8 GT cleared for just long enough to get the camera lense to focus on the car and not people.
Outside the Audi exhibition was a separate display of sport related and other concept cars.
This was the first stand to which I came, in the corner of Hall 3, with pride of place allocated to the new GTC version of the Continental. Like the Coupe, the visual changes are relatively subtle, but look harder and there are plenty.

Other cars on the stand included the new, and to my eyes, rather bulky Mulsanne.
As in previous years, BMW have an entire hall to themselves. I also recall how busy the hall can get, so was expecting to have the same struggle was I did chez Audi.

Whilst it was not deserted, it was actually possible to see many of the cars close up. BMW also put on a splendid show, exploiting the track they have running around the perimeter, and the stage, so there was plenty to watch, and with a gallery area as well, I spent quite a long time in Hall 11. Starting point was the new 1 Series, of which several were on show. I am still struggling to think that it is visually an improvement, and the much vaunted vast increase of wheelbase of  all of 1″ or so means that there really is no more space inside it than the old car. I suspect that those who like the old one will be happy with this and those who did not particularly want the old car will see no reason to head to this car in favour of something else.
The new M5, though, well, that does look deeply desirable. Shame about the £73,000 price tag, which puts it out of my reach!
I also rather like the new 6 Series,
There were examples of the i3 and i8 to inspect close up. Very interesting, both of these, and I look forward to learning more over the coming months as they near production.
The display included a number of historic BMWs, which were great to see.
No sign of the new 3 series, which is promised for later this year, but plenty of the current familiar model on show.    
Lots of these modified Mercedes and Smart vehicles on a stand which was only accessible by invitation. I did not press for entry!

Two Veyrons graced the stand. Actually, “graced” is probably not the word for the “L’or Blanc” version, which is of particularly questionable taste. Ok, let’s do some plain speaking. It is simply hideous! Mind you, I am not sure that scarlet is the best colour for a Veyron, either!

Examples of the current range, including the recently launched CTS Wagon and Coupe comprised the Cadillac stand, located in one corner of Hall 9.

The only Chinese marque at the show, these cars were upstairs. They want to start selling product in Europe in 2013. With these cars? Hmm!

Lots to see here, with a disparate range covering the former Daewoo type cars as well as the traditional American-type vehicles.

The new Aveo is about to go on sale, and although it has some styling similarities with the old model, is claimed to be radically different and better.
The new Malibu will likely be sold in Europe from some time in 2012, too.
Sitting in a corner, as part of the Chevrolet Centenary celebrations was this device.  The Miray.
Elsewhere, a reminder of the hundred years of the Bow Tie were commemorated with these icons:  
Pride of place, right by the entrance to Hall 8 went to the Citroen Tubik. I liked this far more than I though I was going to do from the pictures.

New production car was the DS5, a car which left me somewhat underwhelmed. Neat enough, there was nothing to make me feel “I want one”.  It just looks like a slightly stretched and smoothed out DS4.
Reminder of Citroen’s recent interest in rallying came with this car.
Nothing new to see here, but there was a full display of the popular Duster, Logan and Sandero models, along with a more sporting version.

This Hemera concept featured on Eterniti’s stand upstairs in Hall 6. Dreadful.

Centrepiece was the new 458 Spider.

There were examples of the rest of the current range all on this busy stand.
High above the stand, an example of the early first generation Panda 30 signalled the arrival of the third generation car, of which there were several examples at ground level. This is one of those cars which looks better in the metal than in the pictures, with lots of styling cues from the Latin American market Uno and the facelifted Punto. I still prefer the recently superceded model, visually, but this car is nicely presented and deserves to sell well.

Finally entering production, the Karma was joined by the equally elegant Surf.

Ford are not the dominant market player in Germany that they are in the UK, and so their stand was tucked away in the entrance to Hall 9, and was quite low key, even though they had plenty of stuff worth seeing. The B-Max concept made another appearance, perhaps making up for the fact that the production car is still not ready.

There were 2 examples of the Evos Coupe, with one on a plinth downstairs and the yellow mock up on the gallery level of the stand.
Cars we can expect to see on our roads within months include the ST versions of the Fiesta, Focus and Focus Estate.  
Among a display of current vehicles was an electric version of the new Focus.
The WRC Fiesta was also available for inspection.
The new Civic. Oh dear. This is a car that definitely looks far more awkward when you see it for real. The flanks are bulky and slabby, and the thing looks overstylised, and simply misses the mark. For me, one of the real disappointments of the year, and the signature colour of metallic urine probably does not help!

The electric Fit made another appearance, along with the Jazz models on which it is based.  
Among the new production cars, I have to give particularly high praise to the new i30. This is a good looking car, and I predict that it will sell very well indeed.

Other newcomers included a saloon version of the recently launched i40, and the yet to go on sale Veloster Coupe.
Star billing here went to the Etherea Concept car that was first seen earlier in the year.

Centrepiece of the stand was the FX50 Sebastian Vettel, and as if to emphasise the connection, there was a Red Bull racing car along side.
There were examples of the rest of the range on show, too.

A car I really  wanted to see was the concept C-X16. I don’t think the display was as imaginative as it could have been, but this is a good looking car, and I look forward to seeing the production model in due course.

There were plenty of XF, XJ and XKs on the stand, too.  
The familiar Wrangler greeted visitors to Hall 6, pinned to the wall at an angle.

Most recent addition to the range is the new Grand Cherokee, which was shown in regular and SRT8 guises.
A huge stand area for Kia shows just how much progress is being made by this Korean marque. The car everyone wanted to see was the GT Concept, and I found it tucked away in one corner. This is one of those cars that looked good in the pictures but when I saw it for real managed to look surprisingly different. Although still quite a large car, it is quite a bit smaller and lower than I had imagined.

The three door Rio was making its debut, following quickly on the heels of the recently released five door car.
A light facelift has been applied to the Soul.
The Picanto is also a relatively new model, having been released earlier this year.
They had a stand, and I believe that there were three cars on it. However, you could not even get close during the day, and when I went back near to closing time, as the crowds had dissipated, all the cars were under covers, so I cannot tell you what was there, except that the central car (I guess an Aventador) was red! Sorry, no pictures. Disappointing!


I am still struggling to get to grips with the reinvention of Lancia. The latest 5 door Ypsilon looks awkward from many angles.

The production Flavia Convertible – a mildly modified Chrysler 200 Convertible – was on show. No real appeal there, I am afraid.
The Musa remains in the range, a car based on the now quite elderly Fiat Idea.

Too many crowds around the new Evoque to get a close look or photos, so I had to content myself with the pair of concepts for a potential Defender replacement. They do have the air of a 3 door Yeti about them, but are otherwise nicely done.

The LFA was tucked away in a corner. Still a dramatic looking car, that was a pity.

This was the first airing in Europe for the new GS model, a rather awkward looking copy of the styling cues from some of its competitors, I think.
The rest of the range were all represented, with displays showing how the hybrid technology works complementing the cars.
No sign of all those ambitious future concepts that graced Lotus’ stands last year, but there were new versions of the Evora, Exige and Elise to inspect.

As tasteful as ever, Mansory had a representative display of just what they can do………..  (!)

The Kubang concept occupied the centre of this stand. As large SUVs go, this one is less awkward looking than many.

There were plenty of the current production cars on show as well.
The very centre of the upstairs of Hall 3 was given over to a display of MX5s, celebrating, well, I am not quite sure what, but it could be the 21st birthday of the car in Europe.

The rest of the range were on a separate stand, with pride of place given to the new CX5. I have to say that in the metal, this car disappointed me a little, as the front is really rather bulky. There is no doubting the impressive achievements under the bonnet, though.
Hall 2 is given over to Mercedes. It is vast, but as with Audi, was completely overwhelmed by the crowds. Only by going upstairs and looking down could I see the cars on the stage, which were driven on and off as part of an almost continuous set of performances, with every time of music, lighting an effects. Everything else was almost completely inaccessible. The new SLS Roadster is a great looking car.

There were lots of the new B Class on show. I do not like the new front, and the swoops on the side are not an improvement, either.
The Concept for the next A Class was on show.
The F125 Concept promises some of the things we can expect to see in future S Class sized cars.
The new ML Class was also making its first European show debut.
The eCell car was making another appearance.
Motor sport is very much part of Mercedes’ heritage, and two of the latest vehicles were shown, reflecting the broad range of sporting activities in which the three pointed star competes.
A large two level stand at the front of the BMW Hall had examples of the still expanding Mini range on show. Newcomer is the Coupe, which I personally find utterly hideous. I really cannot come to terms with the roof like at all. Doubtless it will sell well, though.

Oh dear.

There were three newcomers here: the new Combo, the three door Astra GTC and the Zafira Tourer.

The Rake concept was yet another of the slightly odd “urban mobility” type vehicles on show.
Plenty of people have opined that the HX1 was their favourite concept car of the show. Not for me, I am sorry to say.

The EX1 was literally at 45 degrees to vertical, making it quite prominent on one corner of the stand.
Among the production vehicles, the 508 RXH was making its debut. Neat looking and with some clever technology, the biggest problem this car will face is the combination of price tag and non-prestige badge, but I felt it deserves to do well. Will it? That will be interesting to find out.
Peugeot’s 908 Le Mans car was on the stand, along with plenty of familiar road cars.   
A vast stand, and another one which was almost perpetually crowded. There were just two examples of the latest 911 on show, and these are the only cars that I was able to photograph, along with an example of a very early 911.

Renault had  large stand, but they were tucked away upstairs in Hall 3, and this was one of the less bust places in the whole show, which I think sums up the problem that they seem to have created for themselves. The only new production offering was the facelifted Twingo, which was shown in a variety of blue and purple hues. Whoever did the rear light redesign should be sacked on the spot, as the bits they have just stuck on the tailgate look dreadful.

This was the first time I had seen the facelift to the rather lacklustre Koleos, that was premiered earlier in the year. The person who perpetrated this one should also be fired for ineptitude. Truly dreadful.   
There were lots of concept cars scattered across the stand, showing that something more visually interesting could be in the works.
Nicest duo of cars here, though were the cars from their “Histoire et Collection”, a rather gaudy late model R4 and a Floride Coupe.  
Four cars, all in the same shade of blue, showing each of the different models currently offered.

The only car that had not been seen before on this stand was a concept car, the IBL. It is not headed for production, and that is actually a pity, as I found it rather neatly styled.

A mild facelift has been applied to the Exeo, though it is quite subtle, and few would even notice.
Most interesting car here was the very neatly styled Mission L.

A vast array of Smarts were on show, but there was nothing particularly new, as even the electric versions have been seen many times before

Going through something of a renaissance, following financial rescue, the stand comprised a mixture of the production Korando and a concept XIV model. The former is neat enough, the latter, well, it is certainly distinctive!

More from the department of modifications for those with different tastes to mine!

No sign of the new Impreza, which I now learn may not come to the UK. The XV, though, will do so. Yet another Subaru where the looks are polarising.

The rest of the stand was populated with familiar and visually rather unappealing models, from the current wide-body Impreza to the gawky Legacy and Outback models. Is it any wonder that Subaru sales in the UK are not exactly growing at a rate of knots, with cars like these?
May be the new sports coupe, jointly developed with Toyota will help? A ghosted outlined version of the car was on show to tantalise us.
The Trezia is not offered in the UK.   
Star of this stand was the new Swift Sport, a neat looking car which is sure to be highly class competitive.

Examples of the rest of the range were also on show.
The new Yaris was on show, with both the production cars you can buy now and what was labelled a concept Hybrid version which will be available in 2012. Can’t wait!

Also coming next year is a plug-in electric Prius and the larger Prius +
Everything else on the large stand seemed rather forgettable, and was of little interest, I have to admit, apart from the much-previewed FT-86 sports coupe concept which was making yet another appearance. Just get on and build the thing, Mr Toyota!
A vast stand, as you would expect from the biggest selling German brand in its home market.  This rally based Touareg was a distraction from the new production cars.

The new Beetle was prominently displayed, with lots of models on show, and the Concept R car on a turntable.
It was the Up that I really wanted to see. For me, this is the Car of the Year 2011, and it looks just as impressive when you sit in it as it does in the photos.
As well as the production cars, there were several concept versions, of which the Buggy was the most appealing from a great collection of little stars.   
This was one of my favourite concept cars at the show, the very neatly styled Concept You.

The V60 Hybrid, with its very ingenious technology for some remarkable emissions and economy figures that goes on sale soon was on show, along with an electric C30.
A special display upstairs in Hall 6 celebrated 125 years of the motor car, with these vehicles

1886 Benz Patent Wagen

1899 Opel Patent Wagen
1902 Mercedes Simplex 40/45
1912 Ford Model T Speedster
1922 Koco 4/12
1924 Bentley 3 litre
1937 Volkswagen Kubelwagen Typ 30
1937 Horch 930 V Cabriolet
1939 Mercedes 260 D
1944 VW Schwimmwagen
1950 Porsche 356 Coupe
1954 Goliath GD 750
1955 Mercedes 300 SL
1963 BMW 1500
1976 VW Passat Variant
There were some other displays of “classics” including some historic ambulance vehicles.
Other displays upstairs in Hall 6 varied from the Technik Museum Sinsheim and Speyer to some slightly quirky styling concepts, along with plenty of accessory stands.
Overall, this was an awesome day out. For sure, I was tired – but you can sleep on the plane, or at least I can (!) – and I did not have more than a shuttle bus ride to contend with back at LHR. I certainly did not get to see everything, and there was not time to sit in and poke at everything that I would have liked to examine. You would need at least 2 or 3 days to do all that, and that is before contemplating the test drives, the off-roader course and all the other attractions.
Nonetheless, for less than £100, this was well worth doing, and providing the flight schedules do not scupper the idea, is something I would definitely do in September 2013.
2011-09-24 08:58:10

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