The Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA) in Germany has long been one of the absolute highlights of the automotive sector. The first exhibition of modern vehicles was held in Berlin way back in 1897. The festival remained there until 1939. After the war, the car show moved to Frankfurt am Main, where it was held every two years until 2019, which turned out to be the last IAA show in Frankfurt for the time being.

The whole circus is moving to Munich, where the IAA will be held from September 7 to 12 under a slightly different name: IAA Mobility. And that is not all that is changing.

Less flashy, more techy

No doubt there will again be some really beautiful expensive cars on show. But it is no longer the slightly flashy splendor of Frankfurt. A lot of automobile manufacturers are also skipping Munich this year.

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This holds true, for example, for the Stellantis Group that counts such brands as Peugeot, Fiat, Opel, Citroën, Maserati, Chrysler and Dodge. The Japanese are absent altogether, as are General Motors and Volvo.

As many bicycles as cars

That is not to say that there is nothing exciting to see. The original German car brands Daimler, VW and BMW will certainly be looking to make a good impression with their latest electric models.

But first and foremost, the focus will shift to other aspects of mobility. Hardcore car fans will probably not be happy about it, because with 50 bicycle brands, two-wheelers will be as prominent as cars.

Autonomous driving

Secondly, there is a leading role reserved for autonomous driving. The true fans will be paying the most attention to this. Consider the latest radar and lidar systems, optimalization of communication networks, the latest digital road maps, and all of the software and artificial intelligence needed to drive those systems.

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This is the area where there is big money to be made in the opinion of a lot of experts. The fully self-driving car is the final stage of a process that could still take years. However, it may soon be possible to take a nap while driving along the highway.

What’s more, autonomous driving is a competition between the classic car major players and the technology giants such as Apple, Google and Huawei. Who will become the dominant player?

Several highlights

Still, there is plenty for car enthusiasts to enjoy and admire. Among other things, the experts are eagerly awaiting Renault’s new Mégane E-Tech Electric, developed in partnership with Nissan.

BMW is trying to do something about its bad reputation as an E-straggler with a future concept for a city car: the Mini Vision Urbanaut. Apart from that, they are presenting several new foot scooters and motor scooters such as the CE 04 and the concept models Dnyamic Caro and Clever Commute.

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Daimler is expected to make an appearance with a range of new electric car models. The Swiss company Microlino is showcasing its electric urban car, modeled after the 1950s BMW Isetta. And there are high hopes for a presentation by the electric Audi A8 Grandsphere, which is set to take on Tesla.

Tesla itself is not planning to come to Munich. The same is true for some Chinese innovators like Nio.

Flying Dogs

Most of these models will be on display driving on what is known as the “Blue Lane.” That’s a 12-kilometer-long track from Munich’s city center to the exhibition center (the Messe). In addition to electric cars, hydrogen cars and hybrid models will also be on show there. Rides in CO2-free and autonomous buses will begin the offing too. Flying taxis will be featured as well, and there will be plenty of room for “micromobility”, i.e. bicycles and scooters (electric or otherwise).

A section (5 km) of the Blue Lane may only be used by means of transport that are CO2 neutral. In a large parking garage, the self-driving car will be the main focus. How does it know how to find its way around and park itself without any problems? Technology companies and car suppliers are playing an important role here.

Lastly, there will also be some funny things to see such as drones that take dogs for a walk. If things appear to be going wrong, the dog is simply lifted into the air.

Merkel’s last appearance

There is also a sad side to the IAA Mobility. It will be one of the last major appearances by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is held in high esteem by German industry and has often been seen at innovative trade shows like this over the past 16 years. On September 26, Germany will elect a new parliament and with it a new government without Merkel.

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About the author

Author profile picture Maurits Kuypers graduated as a macroeconomist from the University of Amsterdam, specialising in international work. He has been active as a journalist since 1997, first for 10 years on the editorial staff of Het Financieele Dagblad in Amsterdam, then as a freelance correspondent in Berlin and Central Europe. When it comes to technological innovations, he always has an eye for the financial feasibility of a project.