Industry officials say they hope the overwhelming attendance at the Frankfurt International Motor Show, one of the world’s largest, will help spur growth in a sputtering auto sector.
Cars like the next-generation Volkswagen Golf could provide a boost to the domestic car market.
The Frankfurt International Motor Show, one of the world’s most elite auto exhibitions, closed on Sunday with a record 1 million visitors. With 100,000 more visitors attending than expected, the organizers of the fair are hoping it will mark a turnaround for Germany’s automobile industry, which has struggled in the midst of a flagging economy.
"This is a signal of hope and a signal against pessimism," said Bernd Gottschalk, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, the organization that runs the massive biennal show.
Many companies in the industry are pinning their hopes on new mass-production models from Volkswagen and Opel to stir interest among car-buyers and hopefully revive falling customer demand. Volkswagen unveiled its fifth-generation Golf and Opel introduced a redesigned Opel Astra -- the car’s first overhaul in nearly four years.
"People are sick and tired of routine pessimism about the future and defeatism," Gottschalk said. But they "are hungry for new technologies and new cars."
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Gottschalk discussed the highlights of this year’s show and why, he thinks, it will mark the start of a revival for the auto industry.
What were the highlights of this year's show?
You've seen lots of new technologies -- like the diesel particulate filter, new transmissions, new sensors and light innovations. This will increase safety and comfort and will reduce consumption and emissions -- and that brings cars a step forward towards what we call sustainable mobility.
Let's talk for a moment about the diesel particulate filters. Germany is famous around the world both for having a good environmental record and being strong on automotive innovation, but at least with diesel particulate filters, it was lagging behind France.
I don't see it that way. We did not agree with the kind of filters that were on the market from the French side because after a certain number of kilometers, you had to change it, you had to recycle it. They also only ran with additives. Now we've shown up with the second generation of diesel particulate filters. We will use them in the heavier cars and they will enable us to fulfill the standards for Euro 4 (the European Union’s new emissions regulation), which have a long life and many more advantages for customers than filters that were on the market.
German carmakers have suffered this past year in a difficult economy. Do you think the worst is over?
You are right in focusing on the German domestic market, which has been weak for three and a half years. The market is going down, but with this show we have the potential to turn around and have a much better 2004.
Will Germany's smaller cars also be able to compete with foreign imports?
Well, imports have gained a slight market share increase, but only over the last year. If you look at the last three years, you can see that the Germans are still gaining market share. And with these new products, I expect that there will be a certain comeback and we will get market shares back from the importers.