Has the Frankfurt show become too big for the boots of the people who attend it?
Most of the footsore hacks who spent two days trudging between model unveilings and interviews this week would say it reached that point a long time ago but this year it seems to have touched a tipping point for excess.
One enterprising soul fitted a pedometer to himself to find out just how far he would end up walking in a day in the course of work, and was horrified to have clocked up nine miles. That’s a lot of down time just getting from A to B, or more accurately, from Mercedes to BMW – which occupy vast halls at opposite ends of the sprawling Frankfurt Messe [exactly] site – and all points in-between.
This year Audi had built itself a temporary hall in the central concourse, with the equivalent of a full-size Scalextric track for its electric cars to whizz around. That freed up its usual space for Volkswagen which had a stand so big that the girls handing out information on a neighbouring display got lost there while trying to find their way back from lunch. And, no, we didn’t make that up.
Frankfurt is where the German manufacturers go to try to prove that they can be more ostentatious than each other but at least it always offers plenty of new cars to see and write about. And this year it wasn’t all po-faced, zero-emissions stuff. There was a brand new Porsche 911 looking a lot like…a Porsche 911; a Ferrari 458 Spider; a quartet of high-performance V8-engined Audis; a new Bentley GTC convertible; Maserati‘s first SUV, the Kubang; and one floor up from it, looking a bit lost and self-conscious, a new British SUV, the Eterniti Hemera, a GBP150,000 reinterpretation of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
The star of the show, though, was Volkswagen’s apealing new small car, the Up, revealed in a variety of guises – some realistic; others more fanciful. Most manufacturers would rather chew on glass than praise a rival, but a few could be seen wistfully looking at the new VW and wishing they had something like it. Mercedes’ new B-Class looked great and has a lovely, spacious interior. The Citroen DS5 is really stylish, too. The best concept cars at the show were the stunning Jaguar C-X16, KIA‘s swish GT and the flamboyant Volvo You.
None of this disguises that the motor industry is facing big problems right now, with ailing economies in both the eurozone and in the US. Just about any CEO you talked to rolled his eyes in pain when asked about business prospects for the next 12 months. For the departing hacks, the pain is from the knees down. Most are glad that Frankfurt is over for another two years. Now they just want to drive the new cars so they can rest their tired limbs.