It looks like the auto industry has come through the Covid-19 pandemic quite well so far. Some manufacturers are even making big profits again. Beyond the current demand, however, the relationship of many consumers to the vehicle is changing noticeably – a trend that is also forcing the major trade fairs to rethink. Where is the industry shortly before the “new” IAA?
The money is flowing, e-mobility is growing: If you look at sales, the second quarter of 2020, which was marked by the first lockdown, could possibly turn out to be a one-off slump. Sales of many car manufacturers have been on the up again since the middle of last year. This is also reflected in higher profits: Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW earned significantly more in the first half of 2021 than in the first half of the pre-Covid year 2019. They also benefited from made-up purchases and from their own savings programs. The boom in electric and hybrid vehicles was spurred on by lavish purchase premiums in some states. The industry is worried about production interruptions due to a lack of semiconductors, rising raw material prices and a possible further wave of Covid.
Problems with chips and uncertainty about prices
The biggest unknown is currently the supply crisis for electronic components. From the engine control to the navigation system and radio to the window regulator and even more so with new networking technology – computer chips are everywhere. In the doldrums of 2020, many automakers cut their orders too quickly. The manufacturers of semiconductors reoriented themselves, for example to entertainment electronics – their ex-buyers are now partly on dry land. The consequences of the shortage could drag on, some forecasts even assume several years.
Car buyers therefore often have to wait longer for the car they have ordered or do without additional equipment. In case of doubt, existing chips are installed in luxury cars with a high profit margin and in e-cars to reduce the CO2-Fulfill requirements. Because demand exceeds supply, cars tend to become more expensive. Especially since the prices for materials and raw materials have risen sharply, from steel and aluminum to plastic granulate to palladium and rhodium.
The future revolves around connectivity and services
It will take some time before the driverless car is part of everyday life, but it will turn the entire industry upside down. The car manufacturers don’t just want to supply the sheet metal for services from Google, Apple, Huawei and Co. When customers are online everywhere, the vehicle becomes an entertainment and communication device on wheels. Billions flow into the development of interfaces through which usage data, personal services and software updates are exchanged.
If you want to be mobile, you don’t necessarily have to own a car. You can also borrow it when you need it. The corporations are therefore testing many models – from car sharing billed to the minute in large cities to car rental, driving and taxi services to short-term subscriptions and flexible leasing. Climate protection as a cardinal question: drives with high CO2Emissions have little chance in the medium term. The EU Commission wants to phase out the classic combustion engine in Europe from 2035. Manufacturers are now increasing their range of battery vehicles more quickly. But the charging network in Germany is thin, and in many EU countries it doesn’t even exist. And in order to benefit the climate, there would have to be a lot more CO2-Give freely generated electricity. In order to make traffic more climate-friendly, energy producers and municipalities are also in demand.
Another building block for this is closer networking with other modes of transport such as buses and trains, bicycles and e-scooters. This insight was a decisive reason why the IAA no longer appears as a pure car exhibition, but as a mobility fair.
Will the new IAA format ignite?
The classic PS show with polished bodies in exhibition halls has been greatly reduced in size in Munich and moved to the edge. In the middle of the city, around Marienplatz, the industry association VDA and Messe München are planning a mobility festival as organizers – with as much public participation as possible, discussions and opportunities to try out a self-driving electric or hydrogen car in the city for yourself. Bicycle manufacturers are also represented at this “IAA Mobility” from September 7th to 12th, and environmentalists are invited to the forums.
It remains to be seen whether the plan will work – especially in times of Corona. The industry giants Toyota and Stellantis (Peugeot, Citroën, Opel, Fiat, Maserati, Jeep) are not included, for example. The noIAA alliance, supported by the Left, Attac, Verdi and Fridays for Future in Munich, has also already announced protests: “The IAA wants to take public spaces away from us? Not with us!”