Frankfurt Auto Show Gets Cranking

With auto sales cruising at autobahn speeds in North America and Europe — if sputtering in China — the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show is shifting into high gear with media previews today before it opens to the public on Saturday.

“A flood of new cars and SUVs will debut,” writes Mark Phelan for the Detroit Free Press. “The vehicles will range from GM’s Opel Astra — think of it as next year’s new Buick Verano — to a megabuck Bentley and brand-changing models like the Alfa Romeo Giulia sport sedan and Jaguar’s first SUV to core models like the Audi A4 and Mini Clubman.”

“European Union sales rose 8.2% in the first half of this year,” reports the Associated Press’ David McHugh. “U.S. sales are on pace to exceed 17 million vehicles for the first time since 2001.”



McHugh boils down the show to five major themes, which he expands upon here: Falling demand in China; luxury SUVs from the likes of Bentley and Jaguar; brutal competition for the masses; Internet-connected features from automakers fending off encroachments from the likes of Google and Apple, and the usual “chest-thumping” from the German home teams such as BMW and Audi.

Mercedes, meanwhile, showed off a concept for its future large cars, such as the S Class, that had headlines screaming “radical” and “stunning.” USA Todayhas a slideshow of the Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile (IAA), which was presented ahead of the first media day yesterday. 

“When the car reaches 50 mph, an array of flaps and segments automatically deploys to streamline and lengthen the car 15 inches to reduce aerodynamic drag, and louvers in the front bumper shift to improve airflow underneath the car,” Michael Walker writes for the Hollywood Reporter. Great for the freeways in early morning — in about 15 years. It also features “touch-based sensors on the steering wheel” and “talks to traffic lights and other vehicles.” 

Porsche announced an “all-electric Mission E concept sports car which will be on sale within five years, boasts a 600 horsepower motor, a range of more than 300 miles, and a recharging time of under 15 minutes,” Charles Fleming writes in the Los Angeles Times. Analysts tell Fleming that the vehicle is a direct response to Tesla’s high-performance electric car but Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche's global head of research and development, denies it.

“We don’t do a car because Tesla has done a Model S,” he tells Fleming. “We have our own plans. The time was not right before now to bring a pure battery car onto the market. But now the time is right.”

Audi also unveiled a response to Tesla (even if it isn’t) — a “sporty” electric SUV called the E-Tron Quattro concept, Autoblog’s Sebastian Blanco reports. It will deliver 311 miles on a charge to its 95-kWh battery when it comes to market in early 2018.

Besides the new models, executives are in the news. General Motors CEO Mary Barra again rejected Fiat Chrysler CEO’s Sergio Marchionne standing proposal to explore a merger, as its board did earlier this year.

“‘We have studied this issue thoroughly and in great detail, with both internal resources and external experts and it is not in the best interest of the General Motors shareholder,’ Barra told reporters on the sidelines of the Frankfurt auto show,” Reuters’ Agnieszka Flak reports

Barra also “stressed that the recovering European branch Opel is vital to GM as she showed off a new version of the mainstay Astra compact,” the AP reports. It will go on sale next month and compete with the new Renault Megane, the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf in that battle for the mass market in Europe.

Fiat Chrysler’s Marchionne, meanwhile, cancelled his plans to make an appearance at the show today in order to oversee ongoing negotiations with the United Autoworkers Union in Detroit. Labor contracts with Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler expired at midnight. 

“The U.A.W.’s president, Dennis Williams, surprised industry observers on Sunday by targeting Fiat Chrysler — which, because it is the least profitable of the three, is expected to have the toughest negotiation — to reach the first settlement,” Bill Vlasic writes in the New York Times. The two sides have been negotiating since July.

Meanwhile, BMW’s new CEO Harald Krueger, 49, fainted while conducting a news conference to unveil the automaker’s new lineup. He was helped to his feet and off stage and is said to be recovering. A BMW spokesman said Krueger “was traveling a lot recently and was not feeling well ahead of the presentation, but decided to go ahead,” Kim Hjelmgaard reports in USA Today.

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