Numbers are down – at 750 there are around 30% fewer exhibitors than in 2007 and are noticeably fewer foreign media – but interest is high.

That was the consensus after the first press day of the 2009 Frankfurt motor show.

Notable absentees include Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi and Daihatsu. The show isn’t taking up as much space either – organisers say it’s 15% smaller – but it’s still a hike and a half from Hall 1 and the press centre to Hall 11.

BMW isn’t out in the middle in a hugely expensive tent construction as in previous years but has a proper hall to itself.

And there is far less in the way of ‘hospitality’. At least it was considerably cooler than recent shows.

Despite this, the 2009 IAA will mark a turning point for the industry, the end of one era and the beginning of another as electric cars and hybrids came into their own some 90 years on from the first tentative efforts to provide us with alternative non-fossil fuel based transport.

Tuesday saw 82 world launches, slightly below the 2007 tally, with half by German brands.

Almost every manufacturer unveiled an electric car, from the fantastical but intriguing Peugeot BB1 and Citroën REVOLTe, to the sporty Audi e-tron, while Renault promised that all four of its zero emission concepts were “in the production pipeline.”

If they weren’t unveiling electric cars, companies were unveiling hybrids or ‘green’ sub-brands such as Kia’s ‘EcoDynamics’ – the name which will be applied to the most eco-friendly cars within each model range, all around the world.

With so many cars announced before the show, there were few major surprises. Audi just about managed to keep the lid on the e-tron (a couple of websites leaked pictures and speculative stories on Monday night).

Audi said that clearly indicates it will develop an electric car – likely to be a sports model.  VW’s L1 was also closely guarded and highly radical.

Reality check