The Munich trade fair (IAA Munich) was to be one of the key back-to-school events for electric mobility. With a somewhat feigned motivation, I went to take on what looks like a series of tests worthy of Ford Boyard: between puzzles, hidden concepts and a race against the clock. The show was the perfect candidate for the September 7 Watt Else newsletter editorial.
There was a time, not so long ago, when car shows were one of the unmissable events of the year for the industry, the host city and visitors. Everyone vibrated in unison, but that was before.
Between the disenchantment of manufacturers who no longer find their profitability in this format, the politicians who take a dim view of the ode to the individual automobile and the organizers who must compose an event with an obscure mix of genres… no one anymore found there. And, no, it’s not the electric car’s fault. If we wanted to find a way to kill the concept of a car show, we would surely do no better than with the organization of a living room like the one in Munich.
A passionless exhibition
Let’s be honest, the portion taking place within the exhibition center, the “Mass”, is certainly the most disappointing. It could be sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, as the organization gives us the blues and a headache to boot. The IAA in Munich has become a soulless trade fair (B2B), where 3 to 4 automobile manufacturers mix pell-mell in each hall, drowning in the middle of equipment manufacturers, startups, regional institutions and solution providers. This is probably ideal for the organizer to sell stands, ensuring a minimum of traffic in the hall, but for the visitor, there is no longer any visibility on who is doing what.
The manufacturers therefore only did the bare minimum in the exhibition center, to possibly put on a little more of a show in town. Moreover, the largest exhibitor is not an auto manufacturer, but Samsung, which took over three large stands to demonstrate its technologies dedicated to the automobile (batteries, screens, driving aids, etc.) .
A nicer party in town, but under high tension
It is in the heart of Munich that we find ephemeral stands, built to provide an immersive experience for fans of cars and other forms of mobility. Moreover, several manufacturers like Ford, Lucid, Xpeng, Smart or Rimac have not even bothered to invest in the exhibition center.
The structures of BMW, Porsche and Mercedes are undoubtedly the most impressive, but the Volkswagen group has also invested heavily. In town, historic manufacturers have regained power over Chinese brands, while at the “Messe”, it is the opposite.
These stands remind us a little of the heyday of the Frankfurt Motor Show. Many of you have certainly not experienced the Frankfurt show (replaced by Munich), its immense halls and its disproportionate installations of German brands. Despite the 15 km on foot on average to cover the show, I miss its unique atmosphere, like the heyday of Paris World Cupwho is nothing more than a shadow of himself.
The IAA Munich “Open Space” is a beautiful popular festival on several squares in the heart of the city. Well, as long as the weather is nice. Most stands display the cars outdoors, without protection. SO, if the weather spoils the day, the manufacturers are out of pocket. Some builders had to pray to the sun god to grant them days of good weather. Perhaps they should also have asked to be spared from the demonstrations of cyclists and others Greenpeace happenings.
Despite an impressive police presence and numerous bag checks, several events sought to disrupt the party to convey environmental demands. This will probably happen again this weekend, at peak attendance, because the open space is impossible to monitor in its entirety.
A big hassle for journalists
If the IAA Munich must recreate the link with the public, it is clearly not there to facilitate the work of the journalists on site. We finally all found ourselves, despite ourselves, playing a giant treasure hunt to find the new things and concepts between the exhibition and the city. Especially in town, not all the stands were open to the press on the dedicated day, but sometimes only on public days. Why make it easier for us?
This was also combined with a game of hide and seek, or “where’s Waldo”, with the manufacturers’ press services, as it was not easy to know who was where without picking up the phone to get the answer. In terms of relationships with brands, this is the worst show I have experienced in ten years.
Finally, it is perhaps in China that the most attractive car shows are now held. There is one show in France that is still doing well: that of Lyon, which will take place at the end of the month (from September 28 to October 2). It’s a simple sales show. But, it is also a friendly and festive moment, a notion that other big European fairs have thrown away in order to make a profit. This is how to saw the branch you are sitting on.
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