This week, Munich is hosting IAA Mobility, a reinvention of the car show that for seven decades occurred annually in Frankfurt, until the covid-19 pandemic forced its cancelation in 2020.
Set amid environmental protests that shut down roadways and the buildup to a Sept. 26 election that will see German Chancellor Angela Merkel replaced after 16 years, IAA has been rebranded to a “mobility” showcase of electric scooters and e-bikes, electric buses and trams, transportation pods, and—oh, yes—some cars, too.
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It was the first major automotive show to be held since pandemic cancelations brought Germany’s trade show industry a $47 billion loss, according to the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry.
Auto brands were already questioning the relevance of car shows before the novel coronavirus arrived. Ferrari, Aston Martin, McLaren, and Bentley opted to skip this one, too. But several major original equipment manufacturers thought it worth their while to be a part of the confab, which was staged at Munich’s gargantuan convention hall and some of the city’s most significant and beautiful historical sites, including the Bayerische Staatsoper opera house. Merkel and Formula One Champion Nico Rosberg were among the attendees.
Mercedes-Benz unveiled five new electric vehicles (plus a hybrid) to kick off a budgeted $47.5 billion on pushing its electric batteries deeper into consumer land. Foremost among them is the EQE, the follow-up to the stately EQS sedan that Mercedes started selling last month. The EQS’s smaller, less-expensive sibling is expected to bolster the company’s sales volume, revenue, and margins.
The AMG EQS, AMG GT 4-Door Coupe, and EQB also joined the group, which was then highlighted by the Mercedes-Maybach design concept SUV, a rounded, two-tone rig with Maybach logos repeated across its nooks and crannies like the stamping of the Louis Vuitton “LV” on a handbag. During a roundtable with reporters, Mercedes-Maybach head Philipp Schiemer said such an expensive vehicle is crucial to Mercedes-Benz’s longterm goals.
“New technology for the luxury customer is always interesting,” Schiemer told the reporters. “There will be more confidence [in electric power] as we move into the new era, so it’s absolutely logical for us to put our efforts toward electrification.”
Meanwhile, hometown hero BMW announced it would its double orders for battery cells as it unveiled the production versions of its iX and i4 electric cars, as well as a number of electric motorcycles.
“Rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle,” BMW’s top executive Oliver Zipse repeated during his presentation at the group’s big event.
Chief among the BMW proposals was the iVision Circular pod made from recycled, unpainted aluminum, steel, and other reused materials. The conceptual hatchback was intended to show what a BMW could be like in the year 2040. It most notably elongated the shape of the signature kidney grills on the front and gained digital surfaces along its window trims and undulating lights along the rear.
Stuttgart, Germany-based Porsche showed an electric vehicle that’s decidedly not about recycling and more about driving—fast. The Porsche Mission R concept is the company’s hypothetical take on what a customer “cup car” racer would be like if powered by electric batteries. Roughly the size of a Porsche Cayman, with a single seat and a roll cage integrated directly into its roof, the Mission R is neither road-legal nor cleared for FIA-sanctioned racing. If given the go-ahead, the car is likely to be produced in 2024 or so and would comply with whatever regulations are in place, Porsche CEO Oliver Blume tells Bloomberg.
Along with e-fuels, fast-charging networks, hybrids, and the successful electric Taycan sedan, the car is part of Porsche’s goal to become carbon-neutral by 2030. “We see ourselves as pioneers in investing and developing this technology,” Blume says.
As for Audi, the Ingolstadt, Germany-based VW brand unveiled the second in its series of three “sphere” conceptual cars, the Grandsphere, just weeks after it showed the Skysphere coupe concept in Los Angeles.
The electric precursor to a sedan set for production in 2025, Grandsphere has an autonomous mode that tucks away the steering wheel and pedals; it has a total driving range of 466 miles and can charge for 186 miles of driving in 10 minutes when needed, using a special charger. Audi brass have promised to make all new vehicles electric from 2026 on. Annual deliveries of Audi cars will double to 3 million by 2030, they said.
Judging from the week in Munich, the German automakers may fare well with their fast-approaching gamble on electric mobility—at least in Europe. German sales of electric cars are expected to reach 3.4 million annually in 2040, according to Bloomberg NEF’s long-term electric vehicle outlook. The figure would amount encompass more than 90% of the country’s entire new-car sales.
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