The 64th IAA International Motor Show got under way on Tuesday in Frankfurt, Germany. The world’s largest auto show usually has some very significant unveilings and launches, and this occasion was no different, with some interesting and exciting cars showcased. Around 1,000 exhibitors are taking part from 35 countries and at least 80 world premieres are expected over the coming days.
This show is important for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations, as it is these markets that are displaying signs of growth while much of Europe is in a slump. Some of these models have significance for the Indian market and here’s an idea of some of the more prominent ones.
The IAA is held within a very large exhibition area in the heart of Frankfurt, and this year, Audi went all out to grab everyone’s attention with its space-age display area, where you could actually get to drive some of their cars. The RS5, a performance coupe available in India, was displayed in a slightly updated edition, as was the
Jaguar and Land Rover were very prominent during the show as well.
Jaguar showcased the CX-16 concept, their vision for the sportscar of the future. With an all-aluminium construction, this two-seater sports car features a powerful 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine in addition to an electric motor, making it a hybrid with plenty of promise. A unique feature is a button on the steering wheel which, when pressed, gives the driver a 10-second boost of torque for a burst of acceleration. The car has in its design DNA the legendary E-Type as well as nods to the XK line of sport cars, with a hint of Aston Martin as well -- after all, its designer Ian Callum has designed Astons as well!
The legendary Land Rover Defender, perhaps the most iconic off-road vehicle ever made, is also being readied for an entirely new version. On show were the DC100 and DC100 Sports concepts, both of which are a complete departure in design language from the rugged looks of the traditional Defender. The concepts are modern and futuristic. They take on a classic design, looking almost like machines from the 'Transformer' movies. Significantly, a new logo for the JLR group was unveiled, which was also a more futuristic design. Similarly, the Jaguar logo also saw a subtle change.
The Volkswagen group had a very strong presence at this year's show, and had most India-relevant cars lined up. Most important for us is the Up, a hatchback VW hopes will become a Beetle of sorts — another people's car in other words. It is a design that will appeal to a wide variety of people and while the two-door version was showcased at Frankfurt, a four-door hatch is what will make it to India, most probably by early 2013. It will compete with the likes of the Hyundai i10 and Maruti Suzuki Wagon R.
Skoda showed the MissionL concept, a sedan that in India is likely to be a replacement for the Octavia and could be badged the Lauretta. It is a fresh design and sharper looking than anything we have come to associate with traditional Skoda designs. Based on the Volkswagen Vento platform, it could compete with the Honda City and Vento, among others. Porsche unveiled the new 911, the latest version of their legendary sports car. Over the last 48 years, the 911 has never strayed from its basic design philosophy, and the latest version is no different in that regard. However, it is definitely a more beautiful car now than it has ever been, and it is longer too.
In the upper stratosphere of the market, Lamborghini showed off the Gallardo Super Trofeo Stradale, a lighter and more hardcore version of the Gallardo supercar, and Bugatti displayed a porcelain-based version of the Veyron that was, quite frankly, a bit mad! Bentley also showed the newest version of their luxury sports tourer, the Continental GTC.
Mercedes-Benz were also prominently present at the show. They unveiled the ML class, a luxury SUV, and the brand new B-Class, an MUV likely to come to India by mid-2012. The ML shows a lot of promise as an India launch in the near future, given the huge growth in the market for top-end SUVs. Another interesting display here was the A-class concept, an extremely futuristic take on the smallest car in the Mercedes stable; the concept was aggressive in appearance and much larger than the current car. A concept for the future S-Class was also unveiled. Honda displayed the new Civic, but in hatchback form, which will not come to India. Design cues from it are likely to be seen in the sedan version we'll get in 2012.
Hyundai showed the updated version of the i30. The i30 platform is likely to underpin the Elantra sedan, which will compete with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla and a 2012 launch can be expected. Maserati showed their concept SUV, which will come to India for sure when launched. It is based on the Jeep Cherokee platform and should help the company better its sales figures from the current 6,000-odd units a year globally.
Of course, these are but a small part of the show, which features more manufacturers, both small and large. One thing is clear, though: the high-end European car makers are headed towards making premium cars that feature advanced technology, including hybridisation, in order to get in line with stricter emission norms, while manufacturers at the lower end of the scale are headed towards smaller internal combustion engines to achieve the same goal. How all of this will tie in with with the growth markets remains to be seen, since these markets are still overwhelmingly based on fossil fuels and alternative technology has not proved to be very popular in these countries. Only time will tell.
(The writer is in Frankfurt on an invite from Volkswagen)