The German vehicle industry says the show will be more about planet-friendly electric cars than autobahn burners. Picture: REUTERS
The German vehicle industry says the show will be more about planet-friendly electric cars than autobahn burners. Picture: REUTERS

Threats of environmental activism have clouded this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, but organisers have insisted the event points the way to a sustainable future rather than a harmful past.

The German auto industry association, the VDA, which runs the show, insists it will be mostly about electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell EVs and future innovations, rather than high-powered sports cars and autobahn burners.

The Frankfurt show, which opens next week, is stepping up security checks to prepare for potential disruption by climate activists who are calling for people to join anti-car protests.

Police are already investigating a group calling itself Rocks in the Gearbox after more than 40 luxury vehicles were vandalised at a car dealership in Kronberg on the outskirts of Frankfurt last week, adding to a string of anti-auto protests.

Environmental groups, including Rocks in the Gearbox, have appealed to the public to join protests in Frankfurt on September 14, prompting the VDA to warn car show visitors to expect longer queues at security checkpoints.

Rocks in the Gearbox released a statement saying: “Frankfurt will once again launch a propaganda show where the outmoded, climate and environment destroying transportation system is hyped.

“We want to expose this show for what it really is: profits made on the backs of the poorest and at the expense of future generations ... We think it is time to throw rocks into the gearbox of capitalist and automotive profit logic.”

The VDA sought to defuse anti-car sentiment by inviting environmental activists from Greenpeace and Deutsche Umwelthilfe to a panel discussion in Berlin, where they, along with executives from Daimler and BMW and the VDA, will discuss the climate crisis and mobility of the future.

“We will make our contribution to climate protection and invest massively in sustainable individual mobility,” VDA president Bernhard Mattes told a media conference this week, while being heavily protected by riot police because of activist threats.

“We wish to provide intelligent answers to the most urgent questions about the future of mobility.

“We are experiencing a transformation from the world’s largest car showroom to the most relevant platform. A trend can be seen among all the major exhibitions: the relevant point is no longer the size of the area, but the extent of the media reach,” he said.

He invited activists to attend to understand the direction change in the new car market.

Once the physically largest motor show in the world, the Frankfurt Motor Show has seen a large number of its usual display areas cut down. Its attendance peaked at 1.2-million visitors and 2,000 exhibitors in 1989, and 2003 wasn’t far behind.

It has cut exhibition space from 200,000m² in 2017 to just 168,000m² this year, while Fiat, Aston Martin, Cadillac, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Subaru are among the major carmakers skipping this year’s show.

There will still be plenty of huge product reveals, including the Volkswagen ID.3 EV, the Porsche Taycan EV, Mercedes-Benz’s EQV electric van, Audi’s RS 6, RS 7 and SQ 8 performance cars, BMW’s 8 Series GranCoupe, 3 Series wagon, M8 and X6, Land Rover’s new Defender and Mini’s Cooper SE EV.