This was the first weekend in several for which I did not have a trip planned. That’s not wholly true. Initially, this weekend was supposed to be Oktoberfest, but then the first iteration of those plans fell through. It wasn’t until the second iteration had also evaporated that I was sure I’d be going to Frankfurt instead of Munich; this past weekend was both the first public day of the Internationale Automobil Ausstellung as well as the tapping of the keg in München. I ended up choosing the latter, though I’ve been thinking about it today and am not fully sure how I arrived at that decision.
Regardless, I was told that it would be an extremely busy event. Planning “accordingly,” I decided to leave Stuttgart around 6 AM, arriving in Frankfurt around 8AM, leaving some time to park my car / get to the exhibition hall / wait in line before the doors opened at 9 AM. By the time I walked in the doors of the Frankfurt Messe at 8:32 AM, the people density was already higher than I had seen it at any point during the NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show)… I wasn’t shocked, but I was still taken aback by how many people there were.
I had also anticipated that the show would be in the same fashion as the NAIAS or the Chicago Auto Show or even ConExpo: displays, pretty models posing as car gurus, and lots of people in between said displays and me.
It didn’t take me long to realize how wrong I was. At the 2011 NAIAS, at 9:00 AM I pretty much had my choice of cars to sit in. The cars were also typically arranged on a single platform, and any given manufacturer would have, say, 2000 square feet of exhibition space. The displays were static; only Ford, to the best of my knowledge, had a “track” indoors (and the Boss engine sound demonstration). That was about it. The IAA, on the other hand, was sprawled across eleven different halls, each hall containing somewhere around six manufacturers. It took me thirty minutes to go through the BMW exhibit, and that was the first one I walked through (i.e. before the masses arrived… en masse) — and I didn’t even pay close attention to the production cars (perhaps 70% of the floor space). Audi and Mercedes are each rumored to have spent €10 million on their halls — yes, halls; they each have an entire exhibition area for themselves — and the results were spectacular. Please tell me if that link doesn’t work, as a video is really the only way to do the entire hall justice*. The last photograph I took was sometime around 2 PM; after that, it was nearly impossible to take a picture of a car or building without having someone blocking the view. My height — a towering 5’6″ — meant that it was doubly hard to see exhibits; I didn’t see Ferrari at all, and I only caught a look of the new Aventador in a people gap. Apparently, Americans aren’t the only ones attracted to exotic brands. Those were by far the most crowded single exhibits at the show.
As a result, I don’t really have many pictures of cars. I decided early on that various websites will be a better guide for what cars were there and what new concepts looked like, so at first I wasn’t sure what exactly I’d take pictures of. Sometime in the morning, it dawned on me that this auto show would smother the five senses unlike any other show I’ve been to — including ConExpo in Las Vegas and Le Bourget (Paris Air Show) in France — and so I have only five more pictures: one for each sense. A warning: some associations are more obvious than others. ;-)
If y’all want, I would be happy to find some pictures of cars to put on the blog… but it was truthfully the experience and not the shiny bits that was overwhelming. I have never seen this many people in one spot before (maybe except for a Muse concert), and working for a company that supplies all sorts of components behind the sheet metal of cars made it watching all the petrolheads more rewarding. This said, I have to admit that I’m not sure if I’d go back to a future IAA Passenger Car on its opening weekend; there were too many people for me to really feel comfortable taking my time and poking around cars. For that, I prefer the smaller size and flamboyance of the Chicago or Detroit shows. If I had to summarize the twelve hours I was there? The IAA offered a dazzling spectacle of light, music, luxury, and flash, and it was this that I was most surprised by. I honestly thought the sentiment at the NAIAS was unmistakably optimistic, but the amount of passion at this show banishes that mood to an apathetic shrug.
*Given that I stayed past the official close of the show, I should have wandered back to the Mercedes exhibit to grab a photo of the Daimler exhibit with no one in it — but I had been on my feet for ten hours and they wanted no part in supporting my weight for even a second more.