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The fizz is missing at Frankfurt Motor Show this year

Murali Gopalan | Updated on September 13, 2019

Some big auto brands have chosen to skip the event

While electric was among the big themes at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, what was also noticeable was the lack of a certain fizz that accompanies events of this size and magnitude.

From what old-timers said, IAA 2019 was a lot quieter from the participation point of view even while German brands such as VW, Daimler, BMW, Audi, Porsche, etc, put their best foot forward. Likewise, Jaguar Land Rover and Hyundai were present while the absentees included Groupe PSA’s Peugeot and Citroen brands(though Opel was), Fiat Chrysler, etc.

All this clearly showed the kind of pressures that companies are now contending with. After all, these are expensive events and it would be perfectly natural for car-makers to expect some kind of a return on investment.

A lot of them have allotted big time resources for new areas like electrification, which are top priorities at this point in time. Participating in an auto show just means stretching the budget even further which may not be quite justified.

As industry observers say, events like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas seem more appropriate for the automobile industry to truly showcase its new competencies in the digital/connected space. The audience that lands up for CES is also the kind that companies are looking for because it also gives them a chance to forge alliances with startups and the like.

What is also quite evident is that legislation has changed the name of the game with green lobbies now having a greater say in how car-makers should be more conscientious about issues like emissions. The move to electric is welcome but this should also mean that the right ingredients are in place to attract the automobile enthusiast in terms of power and performance.

India’s own mega auto event is barely five months away at Greater Noida near Delhi and is happening at a time when the industry is facing some serious headwinds. Beyond the slowdown, which is doing little to cheer the overall mood, there are bigger uncertainties ahead in new investments and customer sentiment in the BS VI era.

Yet, as it is often said, the show must go on. The Delhi Auto Expo will hopefully do its bit in injecting a lot of enthusiasm into an ecosystem that is in dire need of a cheer booster. As is the case with business cycles, the good times should hopefully follow in due course.

The writer was in Germany at the invitation of Volkswagen

Published on September 13, 2019

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