Green cars on show at Frankfurt Motor Show

Electric cars will be the stars of the Frankfurt Motor Show, taking place from September 17-27, as organisers try to make consumers forget the auto sector crisis.


AFP - The Frankfurt Motor Show, known as the IAA and which takes place from September 17-27, aims to make consumers forget the auto sector crisis with a wave of new models, in particular electric ones.

"The IAA 2009 is being held in the right place at the right time," said Matthias Wissmann, president of the VDA auto federation that organises the show.

He added that the worst of the crisis had passed and the fair would celebrate with a "fireworks show of innovations."

The 63rd edition of the IAA, which takes place every two years in alternation with a show in Paris, is a slimmed-down version of the precedent one however, with the number of exhibitors down by 30 percent to 750 and several Asian brands deciding not to come.

Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi and Daihatsu are staying home, while recovering US group General Motors will not display its Chevrolet brand but be present with the German unit Opel.

GM has just agreed again to sell a majority stake in Opel to the Canadian auto parts group Magna and its Russian partner Sberbank, having apparently come to terms after an initial deal announced in May hit bumps.

The total surface of this year's show has been reduced by 15 percent and the number of visitors expected by 20 percent to 750,000.

"This IAA is taking place under a sign of crisis," said Frank Schwope, auto analyst at NordLB bank.

LBBW counterpart Stefan Sigrist added: "I expect more modesty and fewer pompous events."

Auto sales slumped in many markets a year ago and only avoided a collapse in western Europe thanks to government subsidies in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Despite occasionally hefty rebates, European auto sales fell by 11 percent in the first six months of 2009 according to the European Automobile Manufacturer's Association.

Frankfurt still sees itself as the "world's largest showcase for the automotive industry," since the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show has cut the number of stands in half and London's 2010 salon was cancelled.

This year's fair in Frankfurt claims 82 world premiers, slightly below the level in 2007. German brands are set to present half of them.

"Among those there may be some ridiculous ones," Schwope warned however.

"It is often exaggerated and a question of marketing.

"The revolutionary car will not come to Frankfurt," he forecast even though the show could display progress made with respect to electric or hybrid cars.

"The IAA might manage to show a few symbols for the sector's future," said Stefan Bratzel, a professor at the auto institute in Bergisch Gladbach.

All manufacturers have the basically the same themes, sustainable development and electromobility.

"It will be a green IAA, you can already see it in the logo" that shows two hands coming together in front of a lawn and Frankfurt's office towers, Sigrist said.

Peugeot, Hyundai, Mini, Renault, Smart and Volkswagen are among the brands set to display all electric cars. Some might also give an indication as to when full-scale distribution could begin.

"Whoever can get themselves positioned well is going to profit from the IAA," IHS Global Insight analyst Christoph Stuermer noted.

Metzler Bank analyst Juergen Pieper added however that while electric cars were the big buzz this time around, "the game is not over, there is still a possibility there will be technological advances further on."

Bratzel concluded that "we should not believe that electric cars will be on sale after the IAA ends. But the auto show is there to make you want one."

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