We noticed two very different themes to the show. The first, and most expected, was the trend for high-end manufacturers to go bigger, faster, stronger, and louder. From carbon fiber and brushed aluminum Bugattis to new Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Aston Martins, the ultra high-end automakers were not apt to shy away from more power and over-the-top designs.
In contrast, the vast majority of the remaining presenters at the show presented another theme: “smaller, smarter, cleaner”. With the building push for clean transportation and sustainably fueled cars, it is no surprise that “green” stalwarts such as Honda and Toyota were pushing their latest, more fuel efficient technologies. However, many luxury automakers were also emphasizing their latest and greatest innovations in automotive technology. Large German marques such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz (MB), Porsche, and Audi were emphasizing a move towards electric or hybrid coupled with technologies designed to make driving safer and smarter.
One such example was in the MB building. When we first walked in, we were lucky enough to catch the show designed to introduce the new line of MB vehicles to the audience. The most striking aspect of the “show” was the production value. There were stage lights and digital displays that could rival any Broadway show. From digital water falls that broke over the hood and roof of the real-life car driving by to a virtual opera singer that watched vehicles drive down the ramp, we were all shocked by the grandeur of the production. Beyond the “shock and awe” of it all, MB was introducing electric hybrid vehicles that also had “smart” driving features. Some of these include automatic cruise-control, parking-assist, and collision avoidance. The latter served to automatically stop the car when an obstruction was sensed. The feature was demonstrated onstage both with other vehicle and pedestrians.
It is not often that we as consumers get to see and touch products before they are released to the public at large. I know that all of our group thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity and all had our various favorites ranging from the sane and practical to considerably less so.
After the auto show, we moved on to a meeting with the Frankfurt Chamber of Commerce. It is important to mention that the chambers of commerce in Germany serve a very different roll than those back home. The chambers in Germany are very sophisticated organizations to which membership is compulsory. The chamber serves to help its members establish, evolve, and move their respective businesses in an increasingly competitive global market.
Our contact at the Chamber, Dr. Ratzinger, was extremely generous with his time. During our meeting, he shared information regarding the business climate in both Frankfurt and Germany as a whole.
Frankfurt serves as the trade-show capital of the world (a very important part of the German business and sales process). Frankfurt is also the seat of German financial markets (Dr. Ratzinger was even kind enough to let us peek into the trading floor of the stock market). As Frankfurt has served as a financial and trade-show center for both Germany and Europe as a whole, other supporting industries have flourished. Some of these include: high-tech and communications, transportation (airport), and industrial/manufacturing.
Our first full day in Frankfurt was a little cold, wet and windy but we were still able to enjoy the city, see some amazing cars, and gain a better understanding of doing business in Frankfurt and Germany as a whole.
Well, time for bed… We have a day off tomorrow, I think I’ll spend some of it on a boat…