Somehow, Jaguar did it again: the C-X17 has grabbed the lion’s share of Frankfurt Motor Show coverage, just as the C-X16 did two years ago.
No wonder the German brands are so insistent Jaguar doesn’t move from the tiny show hall it has long since outgrown: it’s the one way they can clip the wings of the British brand that keeps on stealing their headlines.
If only things were as positive for Audi. Inexplicably, the brand stole its own headlines, by adding the last-minute Audi namuk in its show stand roster. Perhaps it thought the Sport Quattro Concept wasn’t enough to take on its premium rivals: alas the confused, awkward namuk didn’t grab the headlines it desired and stole the limelight from that exceptional Ur Quattro homage. A small public glimpse into the disarray that’s seen engineering boss Wolfgang Durheimer removed from his post?
Mercedes-Benz showed how you roll out a range of concepts and production-ready cars. The GLA was a welcome surprise and may finally be the Range Rover Evoque challenger the BMW X1 and Audi A3 are not; the S-Class Coupe Concept seduced many with its seductive grace and is a welcome contrast to the oft-awkward CL it will replace, both in concept and in name.
Star of the German brands was BMW, though. No M4 Coupe concept, surprisingly, because it wanted to concentrate on the production i3 and i8. The cars are familiar but their market launch still had to be big and BMW did so in style, particularly the massive show hall that was eerily quiet save for the whoosh of i3 driving around on the raised road BMW had constructed. It was a showcase as ingenious as the fleet of i3 it had laid on to shuttle journalists around the massive Frankfurt Motor Show grounds: PR brilliance and a superb way to publically launch a gamechanging new car. Audi just looked confused in comparison.
You sense parent Volkswagen must have looked on with a scowl. It was in the main hall with a ruthlessly efficient show stand and with its now well in line Group brands around it: SEAT is finally developing a cohesive plan of attack with the Leon and Leon ST, Skoda is being typically clever with the Rapid Sportback, Bentley is doing what its customers want with the Continental GT V8 S and Lamborghini has given us the most convincing Ferrari 430 Scuderia-style car since the original Scud (pity Ferrari’s instantly usurped it with the 458 Speciale…).
The Bugatti Jean Bugatti was everything you’d expect from the firm as well: impossibly rich, immaculately finished, highly exclusive, gloriously irrelevant.
Porsche celebrated 50 years of the 911 with a lovely 911 50th edition special that’s so on message, it even gets green dials and retro hound’s-tooth-style cloth trim. The green 918 Spyder received its market launch and not before time; with no McLaren P1 or LaFerrari here to steal its thunder, the fanfare could be as understated and product-focused as this socially aware hypercar justifies.
Elsewhere, the Renault stand was full of confidence and pretty product, Toyota was full of the hybrids it’s now approaching one in there European sales of, Nissan continued to become increasingly sophisticated and Ford simply looked homely, tasteful, welcoming and packed with great product.
What’s the message we can take from the show? That the electric car has gone premium (and has a range-extender option in reserve, to quell range-anxiety grumbles). That the European market may be flat lining but it hasn’t lost its sophistication. That big budgets and engineering might won’t give you a big-bang market showcase if the management focus is lacking.
Frankfurt was a stumble for Audi product it must rectify. Because JLR may be small but it’s growing fast, with the steely focus to beat the Germans on the level playground that is Frankfurt…