Post-Frankfurt Auto Show Impressions...
After arriving one day early, before the start of the show (the first two days were for journalists only, ed), we thought we'd get acquainted with what we were about to experience for the next couple of days, so one of the first things we did was to check out the Messe grounds. After a few miles circling around the (then closed) fair grounds, we managed to get all paparazzi on the Germans and snap a picture of what appeared to be the Fiat/Alfa Romeo and the Jeep/Chrysler stands, still under construction approximately 16 hours before the auto show was about to open its welcoming doors to thousands of journalists from all over the world (but mostly from Asia, I should add).
On the 14th of September at 0800 hours sharp we were just about to enter the auto show's premises, ready to cover most of the press conferences coming our way. Having toured and lurked only around the exterior of the show grounds the day before, we were unaware of the exact locations of the halls from each other.
After about ten or fifteen minutes spent in a line at the press center just to procure lanyards for our press passes, we got a hold of a map for the exhibition grounds and started walking towards the BMW hall, which we found was exactly on the opposite part from where we entered. The amount of journalists present was a bit overwhelming, but since the first conference was still about twenty minutes away we thought we should arrive just in time to see what the BMW folks have brought to the show and cover their executives' speeches.
Well, no can do. Their conference was scheduled to start at nine o'clock and about ten minutes to go we realized we weren't even half way there. I must stress the fact that we did use the horizontal moving sidewalks whenever possible, therefore technically doubling our walking speed for most of the time. Long story short, the Frankfurt Messe is HUGE. A colleague from Car Magazine even said that at the 1999 edition of the IAA a journalist had died from heat exhaustion. I don't know if that's entirely true or not, but it sure helps putting things into perspective.
We arrived at the BMW hall when all the marketing speeches were about to end, but just in time to catch the Mini "What a birthday!" show and the surprise-cake unveiling of the Mini Roadster and Coupe concepts. The Vision EfficientDynamics concept in blue and white is absolutely stunning, by the way, while the Active Hybrid 7 was there to please rich green aristocrats. Out of nowhere, about twenty-something skittish girls and a jazz band made a very loud appearance and danced their way through the BMW stand towards the Mini area.
While the Mini 50-year birthday party was taking place I glanced at the conference schedule I had on me and immediately realized that we're going to miss Opel's unveil of the latest Astra model together with the Ampera and Tesla's European debut of the Model S. With that in mind I snatched Tudor away from filling the CF card on his Nikon with thousands of pictures of Mini party girls and we proceeded to at least catch Citroen's press conference, which was about to start in less than half an hour in a somewhat adjacent exposition hall.
Thinking that we'd leave behind the army of journalists we encountered in the BMW hall, we were about to be surprised again when entering the Citroen stand. I don't have any official figures for how many journalists were actually present at the first press day but it sure felt like either there were tens of thousand or some of them had teleporting abilities from stand to stand. I say this because even though we kind of arrived early for the Citroen Revolte reveal, the place was already packed with cameras and hundreds of motley journos from all over the world.
Having learned from a photographer whom I used to work with that the Daimler/Mercedes-Benz hall is probably the most impressive I realized that there were also a lot of world premieres there as well. The SLS AMG, Vision S 500 Hybrid, B-Klasse F-Cell, Concept BlueZERO, E-Klasse T-Modell and the Maybach Zeppelin were about to have what was probably the most striking ceremony of reveal in the the whole Frankfurt auto show. And they did, despite falling sales numbers across the Swabian brands. Too bad Tudor didn't have enough time to get there since the Mercedes-Benz hall was a good 20 minute walk from the Citroen stand.
The rest of day we burned a rather high amount of calories running from the Volkswagen Group hall (which probably had the highest number of premieres) to the tuner area and the Asian corner, where a wave of electric and plug-in hybrids was making its presence known to the world. The most noted world premieres of the VAG Group were the batmobile-like Lamborghini Reventon Roadster, the Bentley Mulsanne leviathan, the geeky-named but stupid-fast Audi e-tron concept and Volkswagen's reiteration of the one-liter car.
The French also left a strong impression, with Renault unveiling not one, but four 100% electric concepts, while Peugeot bringing the production version of the "French Audi TT", the RCZ. Other notable presentations came from Toyota, with the Prius Plug-in Hybrid concept. Lexus, on the other hand, presented the LF-Ch concept, a glamorous future competitor for the BMW 1-Series and the Audi A3, which sadly arrived equipped with some gigantic chrome "dubs" that made our eyes bleed. Probably the funkiest reveal was that of a modern electric concept of the communist Trabant car.
After a whole day of trying (but mostly failing, ed) to cover as many live conferences as possible, we headed back to the hotel in order to asses the "casualties". It then became clear that the second day was going to be even more tiring, since we had to visit every single stand in order to "shoot" everything at least remotely interesting and to establish connections to all the exotic manufacturers there. By the way, we might have a few "special" test drives and cover stories coming until the end of the year, so stay tuned.
What did I personally learned from all the shenanigans at my first visit to the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show? Well, a number of things, actually:
-the Frankfurt Messe is friggin' huge, so next time I should probably book a Segway or something else small and electric for running around the fair;
-there isn't enough time to cover all the major premieres, so we should bring at least a second camera;
-never visit the Red Light District while slightly intoxicated, with most of your possessions on you and especially if you don't have a karate-skilled sidekick;
-a rucksack with two compartments would be nice to have around, one half filled with ice-cold Red-Bulls and the other with hot coffee;