Frankfurt’s biennial International Auto Show (IAA) opens its doors to the public Thursday, but major foreign carmakers are staying away while climate demonstrators march outside — forming a microcosm of the industry’s woes.
“There have never been so many cancellations by carmakers,” said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the Centre for Automotive Research (CAR).
“The IAA is turning into a trade fair packed with problems,” he added, in the image of the German manufacturers who host it.
Giants like Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen are seeing their engineering advantage and profit margins eroded — even as the global economic outlook darkens.
The potential blow of US tariffs on European auto imports hangs over many carmakers, who have already suffered from an escalating Washington-Beijing trade confrontation due to their American factories.
Meanwhile three of the world’s four largest carmakers will stay away from the IAA this year: the French-Japanese Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, Japan’s Toyota and US-based General Motors (GM).
Other heavyweights like Italian-American Fiat-Chrysler and France’s PSA have also absented themselves, as well as some of the best-known luxury brands.
The remaining manufacturers huddled in Frankfurt’s massive trade fair complex have one major priority: stoking enthusiasm for new electric models set for release this year, as new EU carbon emissions limits enter into force from 2020.