Key European auto show goes green

STRAIT TIMES – Before the pandemic, German auto shows looked like this: Car manufacturers competed to take up the most floor space. Sparkling new models have been unveiled accompanied by cheesy light shows. Crowds of mostly male visitors watched the latest displays of power and luxury from Wolfsburg, Munich and Stuttgart.

But the crowds had cleared even before the pandemic interrupted mass gatherings.

The first major European auto show in two years, which opened in Munich recently, looks like this: The latest models are on display in outdoor plazas rather than expensive pavilions. Serious discussions on topics such as autonomous driving have replaced light shows. And the bikes are on display.

(Yes, bikes).

What was once known as the Frankfurt International Motor Show moved to Munich and was renamed IAA Mobility. (IAA stands for Internationale Automobil Ausstellung, or International Motor Show). All modes of transport are now welcome, regardless of their mode of propulsion.

A BMW i4 is on display at the BMW outdoor stand at IAA Mobility in Munich. PHOTO: XINHUA

The German Automobile Industry Association, which holds the show every two years, is responding to changes in technology as well as growing consumer awareness that the hoarse roar of a car means it is spitting poisons into the air.

It is a difficult time for the auto industry. Automobile manufacturers still derive most of their profits from gasoline or diesel vehicles. But they spend almost all of their money and energy on electric vehicles and autonomous driving software and are struggling to redefine themselves to adapt to the new technology.

The five new vehicles that Mercedes-Benz unveiled at the show are battery-powered. Volkswagen, once known for parading new cars past automotive journalists on a large stage with pounding music, showed no vehicles.

Instead, Volkswagen offered a nerd festival. Journalists broke into small groups to discuss with Volkswagen executives about autonomous driving, battery technology and the company’s plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

In past years, Volkswagen has wowed visitors with surprise appearances from stars such as Pink. This year’s guest of honor was Managing Director Bryan Salesky of Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based self-driving company with partnerships with Volkswagen and Ford.

He and Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess stood at a chest-high table, microphones in hand, and explained why it’s so difficult to make cars that can drive on their own.

“I think the world understands how complex it is,” Salesky said. “Our children will work there. “

“Sustainability” was the buzzword.

BMW presented a concept vehicle made entirely from recycled materials.

But automakers still have some work to do to convince everyone that they are serious about tackling climate change. Greenpeace activists staged protests in front of the Volkswagen event and others, reminding people of the greenhouse gases emitted by most cars every day.

Although Ferrari and Lamborghini, icons of power and machismo, had no exhibits at the show, an entire room was devoted to bikes and e-bikes, including brands such as Cannondale and Pegasus, as well as a pair. of three-wheeled pod-shaped vehicles. powered by pedals and small electric motors.

By moving the displays of the latest vehicles to public squares in Munich, the organizers hoped to create a festival atmosphere and persuade a wider range of people to pay 20 EUR (32 SGD) for a day ticket.

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