“The world’s most automobile show demonstrates that this is the industry of innovation. Around 1,100 exhibitors from 35 nations are unveiling 159 world premieres at the world’s most important motor show, the 65th IAA Cars. Only the IAA offers such a glittering display of innovations. It throws the window to the future of mobility wide open: the IAA’s key focuses of electric mobility and vehicle connectivity are setting two technological megatrends that will redefine the automobile and driving in the coming years. We are making mobility more efficient, safer, and more comfortable,” stressed Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). He was speaking at the IAA’s opening ceremony in Frankfurt am Main. German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the 65th IAA Cars in the presence of numerous high-ranking guests from the realms of politics, business and society.
No other motor show triggered such a great response from the media, Wissmann said. “More than 11,000 journalists from 100 countries are reporting on the IAA, and on the two Press Days alone the exhibitors held over 80 press conferences. No other motor show is as international as the IAA,” he emphasised. The proportion of foreign exhibitors has risen to 42 per cent, the proportion of exhibitors from Asia has doubled, and the number of Chinese exhibitors has actually increased ten-fold.
Addressing Chancellor Angela Merkel, the VDA president said, “Today you are opening the leading international exhibition on mobility. So you are firing the starting pistol for an IAA with a global reputation and which focuses the attention of the automotive world on Germany – from China to the United States, and from Brazil to South Korea. Here automotive fascination is more international than ever before.” Cars were much more than merely a mode of transport: “Cars have become a four-wheeled means of creating understanding between nations – and thus driving culture in the literal sense!”
This IAA was sending out a clear message: “Ours is the industry of ideas, the industry of innovation! Only a rolling stone gathers no moss. We are going with the megatrend of mobile communication. We are putting our foot down to accelerate on the autobahn of innovations,” Wissmann said, adding, “The vehicles recognise the traffic situation in real time. And the cars pass the information on – in a way they talk to one another. So drivers can react even if they do not yet perceive the danger themselves. The end of a traffic queue beyond the next curve, or bad weather conditions, are indicated in good time. And at intersections the number of accidents can be significantly reduced. This is a quantum jump for road safety!” Right at the end of this development, when automated driving has become a reality, cars could ultimately operate with zero accidents: “That which still looks like a vision today can be reality tomorrow. Every journey, even one into the automotive future, begins in first gear,” Wissmann underlined.
The VDA president pointed out that for a long time cars and smartphones had not been mutually exclusive, but instead complemented each other: “You often hear it said that young people are becoming less interested in the world of automobiles. Here on the trade show grounds we find the exact opposite!” While the general population is getting older all the time, the average age of visitors to the IAA is falling. The IAA App, the Connected Car Guide, and the digital IAA offerings are all extremely popular. The IAA Facebook page already has over 36,000 “likes.” Wissmann underscored, “Our schools’ campaign is also bursting at the seams: over 26,000 schoolchildren are turning the exhibition grounds into the largest classroom in the world. Some teachers would also like to have such interested, active and excited groups of children at school a bit more often. If one wanted to add automotive studies to the school curriculum, the courses would definitely be oversubscribed.”
Wissmann also drew attention to the great progress in optimising the classical drive trains. “Petrol engines and clean diesels are becoming more and more efficient. At present, the German group brands have 738 models on the home market emitting less than 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre. The number has more than doubled just over the last two years.” More efficient engines and consistent use of lightweight construction have been the two major components in this rapid development. To add to this, there are now numerous series models with alternative power trains – pure battery-electric systems, plug-in hybrids, and range extenders. “Before the end of 2014 our manufacturers will launch 16 e-models onto the market. Electric mobility is no longer a vision – the cars are appearing on the roads now,” Wissmann stated.
Wissmann took a critical view of the planned CO2 Regulation from Brussels. “If physical and technical limits are not taken into account, the industry will have to raise a warning finger. Lawyers and bureaucrats have to listen to the engineers with their technical know-how. The automotive industry will not make a good political pawn to be tossed between officials’ desks in Brussels. The CO2 Regulation is relevant not only to action on the climate. It also has the task of making fundamental industrial-policy preparations for Europe’s competitiveness and striking a healthy balance between ecology and economy. Allow me to put it in clear terms: we do not have the impression that everyone in Europe is approaching this task with moderation, as a regulated, boring, standard car is certainly not the solution! People in Europe and elsewhere have varying mobility needs; they want to choose between a wide range of model variants.”
Reasonable and realistic legislation was necessary, Wissmann said: “We are not basically questioning the 95 gram target for 2020. But in order not to endanger value-added and employment, we must also look beyond our own horizons. In the USA the target for the year 2020 is only 121 g CO2/km, in China it is 117 grams, and in Japan 105 grams. If we in Europe want to be players on the field of alternative drive trains, we have to stimulate innovation. China and the USA are applying super credits at a much higher level than that proposed by the European Commission. In the USA electric cars count double, while China is applying a factor of five. In Europe, too, we will not arrive at smart decisions for the future by strangling developments, but by stimulating them.”
Wherever the automotive industry was successful, it generated skilled jobs. For all these people – in Germany alone the automotive industry has a regular workforce of over 750,000 – cars created identity. And for many more people, having a car of their own meant individual mobility and reliable, modern services: “These are all good reasons to support the German automotive industry, so that the best cars can continue to be built right here,” Wissmann stressed.