The Frankfurt show this year “is taking place in unusual times”, Matthias Wissmann, president of the German automotive industry association VDA, said at a press conference. “The public and political mood is extremely challenging.”

He said German auto trade journal Automobilwoche “hit the nail on the head” with a leader article: “No previous IAA has ever been more politically charged.”

“That was a reference not only to the Bundestag election campaign but also to the heated debate over diesels in recent weeks,” Wissmann said. “The discussion urgently needs to become more objective, especially regarding the uncertainty among drivers in Germany. The diesel summit at the beginning of August showed solutions for the way forward. 

“Modern diesels are indispensable for achieving Europe’s ambitious CO2 targets. The new real driving emissions (RDE) will complete the work on reducing nitrogen oxide emissions. Gasoline vehicles will also remain on the agenda and will continue to be optimised. No one should conclude that we are trying to cling to the ‘good old days’ because we are not looking to the future. Quite the opposite is the case. For us, learning from one’s mistakes means pushing forward the topics for the future.”

He said the 2017 IAA “stands for a fundamental paradigm shift that is currently taking place in the companies – both in products and in production”.

The huge importance of digitisation is visible to everyone at the IAA.

“No other trade fair provides so much orientation for this megatrend, because it shows for the first time all the great advantages of digitisation: marked improvement in road safety and considerable reduction in the accident figures; minimised time-consuming search for a parking space in towns and cities; considerable improvement in the traffic flow, less stop and go traffic and, associated with that, lower pollutant emissions, lower CO2 emissions, lower fuel consumption.”
Wissmann said it would be important to integrate the various modes of transport within cities – cars, bicycles, buses, taxis and railways, and car sharing.

“Overall, digitisation offers excellent opportunities for mastering the mobility challenges in cities. By 2020, the German automotive industry will be investing EUR16bn to EUR18bn in connected and automated driving. 

“Parallel to that, we have the second major innovation trend – the ramp-up of alternative powertrains. To this end, by 2020 we will invest EUR40bn and the number of models will more than treble from today’s 30 to over 100.

“The cars of the future will be automated, connected and emission-free.”

This year’s IAA’s overall concept is triggering a completely new identity for motor shows, Wissmann said.

“It directs attention a long way forward – and simultaneously it is the international discussion forum on the mobility of tomorrow.”

He said the show offers the automotive industry “the best opportunity for approaching the general public right now, to show exactly what it can do.

“It showcases the entire range of innovations in the fields of mobility, from digitisation and electric mobility all the way to new mobility concepts, especially in urban settings. That is precisely what the slogan of this IAA – Future now – stands for. 

“This IAA brings together all the players who shape the mobility of the future. No other motor show has such a strong focus on digitisation as the IAA.”

The largest IT and technology firms are “clearly visible” in Frankfurt: Facebook is the New Mobility World Partner; Google is Platinum Partner of the Media Night that will be held on the evening of the first press day; SAP and Google are prominently represented at the New Mobility World and chip giant Qualcomm is also exhibiting at the IAA/New Mobility World.

Other IT and technology companies include BlaBlaCar, Harman, IBM, International Industries, Kaspersky, Merck, NXP, Siemens, Sony, TomTom, Telekom, Allianz and McKinsey, and Daimler subsidiaries Moovel, MyTaxi and Car2Go, along with VW subsidiary MOIA. 

“Large technology and IT firms are using the IAA specifically as a platform. This underscores the IAA’s standing as a leading international trade show,” Wissmann said. 

“Like the automobile itself, trade shows have to re-invent themselves over and over.

“We are accordingly breaking new ground with the IAA’s visitor advertising that centres on people and their questions about the future, and what they want and require from the mobility of tomorrow. This can be experienced at the [public days] opening event on Thursday.” 

Despite some notable automaker absences, Wissmann said 994 exhibitors from 39 countries are at the IAA.

McLaren has returned to the IAA (Agora) after a break of many years and Chinese manufacturers WEY and Chery are at the IAA for the first time. Other first time exhibitors are from Egypt, Finland and Peru. 

Several hundred suppliers are also exhibiting.