Climate change reshapes Frankfurt car show

Source: By David McHugh, Associated Press • Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The headwinds buffeting the auto industry are making themselves felt at the Frankfurt Motor Show, with companies confronting a slowdown in sales due to global trade uncertainty and pressure from governments to lower emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Signs of the times at this year’s show include a slew of new, market-ready electric cars led by Volkswagen’s ID.3 compact that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The IAA show opened to journalists yesterday and opens to the general public Saturday.

European carmakers are the focus of the show, and they will be rolling out new battery-powered vehicles to meet the European Union’s tougher limits from 2021 on emissions of carbon dioxide. The lower limits are part of the E.U.’s effort to meet the targets of the 2015 Paris climate accord. China, the world’s largest auto market, is also pushing for more low-emission vehicles.

Yet it remains very much open whether consumers will want to buy electric cars, given concerns about range, lack of places to charge away from home and higher purchase prices. Battery vehicles were only 1.8% of the European market through the first six months of the year, according to figures from industry analysts at JATO Dynamics Ltd. The cars have sold better in the high end of the market, as exemplified by Tesla’s Model S and Model X.

The argument for rolling out so many new electric cars is that consumers need to see enough to choose from before they will change their purchasing habits.

Volkswagen has committed most heavily to electric cars among European manufacturers. It hopes to have a mass market electric car in the ID.3 compact, which it says will have a base price under €30,000 ($33,000), about as much as a similarly equipped Golf diesel.

Others with new electric offerings include Honda with the e, which replaces side mirrors with cameras, and Daimler’s Smart with restyled versions of its fortwo and forfour small cars. At the high end, Porsche is taking aim at the Tesla Model S with the Taycan, a high-performance coupe starting at €152,000 in Germany including value-added tax and from $152,000 in the U.S.

Environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Germany and German National Cyclists’ Association are organizing a march to the exhibition center Saturday to call for what they view as more environmentally friendly transportation policies. They want more space allotted to bicycles and pedestrians and more use of renewable energy instead of gasoline and diesel.

The rally coincides with a mass bike ride starting in different towns outside Frankfurt and converging at the rally. Another group has called for a blockade of the auto show Sunday.

The show’s organizer, the German Association of the Automotive Industry, is organizing a civic dialogue Friday with up to 200 citizens who can put questions to industry figures, including auto association head Bernhard Mattes, Daimler CEO Ola Källenius and Porsche CEO Oliver Blume. Källenius is slated to appear on stage tomorrow with Robert Habeck, the chairman of Germany’s environmentalist Green Party, for a discussion of sustainability strategies, the future of transportation, and balancing economic growth and environmental protection.