There are plenty of reasons why I absolutely hate car shows. I’ve only ever been to two, one in Geneva and now Frankfurt.
The vast majority of the glossy, overblown show space endorses and glorifies the most absurd excess, bigger, fatter less efficient cars spin slowly in front of massive screens showing ludicrous images of the winding open road in either Italy or Scotland. They never show the M25 on a Thursday evening when the endless stream of traffic grinds to a halt.
Young women in corporate uniform standing next to vast hulking lumps of glossy steel. They just stand there and I feel embarrassed to catch their eye, they try very hard not to look bored.
As any car nut or automotive journalist will confirm, Frankfurt is massive, spread over 10 or so monster halls with miles of moving walkway corridors between them.
Just a glimpse at the complexity makes your head spin. To be able to walk through a huge hall that is devoted entirely to power steering systems just rubs in the fact that the car industry is massive, complex, in many ways too huge to comprehend.
I only saw 4 halls at the Frankfurt motor show this week and they ranged from what I saw as innovative and exciting, the new electric cars rapidly becoming a fact of life, to the patently absurd half million pound sports cars and even bigger SUV’s with specialist leather seats and even bigger engines which obviously get loads of media attention because, they are so I’ve been told, ‘sexy.’.
I then found a hall full of control systems, sat navs, in car entertainment and security electronics, and all these stands with exotic names like ‘infosec’ ‘autotek’ and ‘mobivantage’ full of hundreds of men in dark suits standing around talking to each other.
Overwhelmingly complex and impossible to get a short take on, which is why, I suppose, that the few chief executives I’ve met, Carlos Gohsn being the most obvious, need to live in a kind of philosophical bubble, discussing ‘the future’ and having a long view of the whole thing.
If they got involved in the minutiae of control systems, low energy climate control mechanisms, wing mirror styling they would experience an impossibility meltdown.
So I sat down in a posh hotel conference room to listen to Renault Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche discuss what was going to happen next. These two enormous corporations are working together to develop certain key products, for example Daimler is making the batteries for the Twizzy electric 2 seater.
The proper journalists were very interested in the strategic alliance between these two corporations, I’m not sure I was.
If you read the financial pages of newspapers I’m sure it’s very interesting but I just wanted to know as always about the drive to change the whole way we move about.
I got the clear impression that Mr Ghosn is at the forefront of this drive, so far he seems to be the only one of the really big players that has staked the future of two large manufacturers on making electric vehicles for the mass market.
The room was full of automotive journalists, proper ones who know about cars, not like me, a rank amateur who is learning fast. The one thing I did notice though is the very different attitude to electric cars that has emerged in the last few years.
I’ve been interested in this subject for long enough now to be able to sense the shift. 4 years ago pretty much anyone who knew about cars and the way people drive them, what they want out of them, the image they thought the car conveyed upon them was hugely scathing of the battery electric car.
There is still plenty of healthy resistance but companies like Renault and Nissan have done an enormous amount to finally challenge this tired old attitude. Not one snarky ‘why are you wasting your time on poxy electric milk floats instead of proper cars’ type questions
It’s cost Renault Nissan billions of euros but I think they might well tip the balance.