Sat, Sep 09, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Automakers to stay low-key at Frankfurt auto show

Bloomberg

It will be mind over muscle at this year’s International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, for automakers chastened by a two-year diesel scandal.

While there are to be new models and concept cars aplenty, from Bentley’s Continental GT to Mini’s electric prototype, some of the biggest makers are taking a lower-key approach than usual at the biennial event that begins on Thursday.

Others, including Fiat SpA, are staying away altogether.

“We want to showcase our innovation power and our ideas that will shape how people use cars and get around,” BMW AG senior vice president of project management and brand Hildegard Wortmann said of the firm’s plans for the event.

BMW is to join with TED, the sponsor of TED talks, to judge a competition between half a dozen futuristic ideas, including making 3D-printed cars from recycled plastic.

Archrival Mercedes-Benz is hosting a three-day talk-fest, featuring notables such as former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and supermodel and entrepreneur Amber Valetta, that will not even concentrate on cars.

“We want to offer visitors a community experience with dialogue rather than a classic presentation of our products,” Mercedes vice president for marketing Jens Thiemer said.

That is a far cry from the bravado and one-upmanship that has characterized past shows, such as in 2011 when Audi spent 10 million euros (US$12 million) on an indoor track to match BMW’s own test driving loop.

This time around, Audi, a unit of Volkswagen AG, will not even have its own pavilion at the continent’s biggest motor show and BMW is not setting up a track.

The evolving approach reflects the industry’s changing dynamics.

As Europe’s automakers grapple with the diesel-cheating crisis, they are also making record investments in electric vehicles and self-driving technology that might or might not pay off.

As cars become smarter and autonomous-driving features advance, manufacturers are increasingly looking beyond motor shows to display their wares to tech-savvy consumers.

Jaguar Land Rover is holding its own, inaugural “tech fest” in London on the weekend before the Frankfurt show begins, a three-day event “dedicated to stimulating conversations” about the future of mobility, its Web site says.

Ford Motor Co was the first automaker to set up a display at the computer games convention Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, last month.

Inside a high-performance Focus RS at the show, visitors could don virtual-reality goggles and “drive” a timed lap around Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps race track.

BMW chose to unveil its M5 sedan at Gamescom to complement the vehicle’s virtual presence in the Need for Speed Payback computer game.

BMW chose to present its lineup of new vehicles to journalists on Thursday at its Munich design headquarters, rather than in a flashy unveiling in Frankfurt, while Audi decided it was a better idea to host 2,000 guests in Barcelona in July to present the revamped A8 sedan and offer workshops on artificial intelligence than stage a 15-minute car-show news conference.

Fiat and PSA Group SA’s Peugeot and Citroen, which account for nearly a quarter of Europe’s car sales, are among those without a presence at the Frankfurt event. Ford is scaling back its display, forgoing the traditional news conference and will not be unveiling new models.

More companies will reconsider the role of traditional car shows because of the cost, Jaguar Land Rover chief executive officer Ralf Speth said.

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