2019 Frankfurt Motor Show ‘a huge fail’ says former car boss

Karl Thomas-Neumann

As a former Volkswagen Group senior executive and boss of Opel, Karl-Thomas Neumann is well placed to pass judgement on the Frankfurt Motor Show. It’s fair to say he’s not a fan of his homeland event.

Neumann has launched a scathing attack, labelling the show “a huge fail” and claiming “it’s just a sad shadow of what it used to be”.

There will not be a Frankfurt Motor Show in 2021, he tweeted, in a damning assessment of one of the largest international car shows in the world. Many major brands are absent this year, including Toyota, Nissan, Volvo, Peugeot, Fiat and Mazda.

The absentees, combined with a “mono dimensional” approach, paints a “sad picture” for Germany’s biennial motor show. It’s a view shared by some other industry experts, including designer Drew Meehan, who claims “the show is so spread out and hard to navigate that it was practically begging to be disrupted by a clever brand, and yet no clever brands seem to have showed up.”

The disruption has come from another source, with Greenpeace using the Frankfurt Motor Show to “send a message to the industry directly”. The carbon footprint of the car industry equalled nine percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, it says.

Greenpeace has singled out the ‘dirty dozen’ and says thousands of protestors will converge on Frankfurt to demonstrate for a climate-friendly future.

From Germany to LA

Karl Thomas-Neumann Opel

Karl Thomas-Neumann was CEO at Continental for five years before becoming CEO and president of Volkswagen China in 2009. He was CEO of Opel but resigned when the company was acquired by PSA Group in 2017. He lives in Los Angeles and works in the field of electrification and new mobility.

Motoring Research’s Richard Aucock was on the ground at Frankfurt 2019 and says it did indeed feel different. “The show was no smaller – it still covers an enormous footprint, with almost a mile separating Mercedes-Benz at one end and BMW at the other.

“But the sheer number of absentees meant many halls were almost entirely handed over to auto industry suppliers rather than car brands. This made it feel unusual, and certainly resulted in less of a show ‘buzz’. 

“Many brands also took out visibly smaller stands. BMW used to have a hall all to itself; this year, it shared space with Jaguar Land Rover, Opel Vauxhall, Hyundai and Alpina. 

“The thrill of the Land Rover Defender reveal still created excitement, but the rest of the show felt flat. A review and refocus are certainly necessary if it is to survive into 2021.”

Is the former Opel CEO correct in his critical assessment of the Frankfurt Motor Show? Let us know using the comments below.