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Opinion: Motor Show Cruises on Dreams

Showcasing both dazzling luxury machines and affordable fuel-efficient cars, the ongoing Frankfurt International Motor Show has visitors torn between airy fantasies and practical concerns.

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Gleaming steel is wowing visitors at the Frankfurt auto show

A walk around the massive fair halls of Frankfurt's 61st car show makes it clear that cars still have an unbelievable allure.

The sleek and noble coupes largely dominate the exhibition halls, the kind where you'd rather not look at the price tag or ask how much fuel a car with a 500hp motor would need on city roads.

Bildgalerie IAA 2005 Porsche

The Porsche Cayman S

It may be smooth sailing for the producers of such gleaming machines as far as sales are concerned. But most of the visitors at the fair are still focusing their attention on the more affordable fuel-efficient models.

The latter, however, aren't to be found at the stands where the German brands are displayed, but rather among the French and Japanese ones.

Germans on the ball

But those who say that's an example of how the Germans slept through a new development -- like that of the hybrid motor -- would be wise to reflect on the fact that 15 years ago it was a German carmaker which first offered a combination of fuel and electrical motor. The problem was that nobody wanted it at the time.

The Japanese, on the other hand, have managed to cash in on a better time that's more amenable to the hybrid version.

There's little doubt that the hastily-forged alliances, even between rivals such as DaimlerChrysler and General Motors, are likely to lead to healthy competition among the hybrids in future -- a fact that can only bode well both for the environment and the wallets of car drivers.

Hope-filled show

A fair like the Frankfurt show is always a full of hope. The car industry is still suffering from oversupply, cost problems and fierce competition, and it has entered a near-ruinous discount fight in important markets.

For German mass carmakers, such as Volkswagen and Opel, hard times have long been reality. Their management has reacted with cost-cutting measures and by axing jobs.

IAA Maybach Concept Excelero

The Maybach Concept Excelero

On the other hand, luxury car brands, such as BMW or Porsche, can afford to declare their loyalties to Germany as a business location, open new factories and expand existing production facilities.

"Whole world at a fair"

The car industry in Germany, the birthplace of the automobile, thus presents a varied picture. But what's worth remembering is that Germany is still one of the most important car-producing countries worldwide.

Every seventh job in Germany hinges directly or indirectly on the car industry. And German producers are seizing the chances offered by globalization: They have manufacturing units in 80 countries around the world -- a fact that also secures employment at factories back home.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was born in Frankfurt, put it succinctly during his time: "Much like in a nutshell, one can see the whole world at such a fair" -- and its problems too, one is tempted to add.

The car show beneath the shadows of the banking metropolis' skyscrapers is undoubtedly meant for the heart. The problems only begin outside -- with rising fuel prices at gas stations.

After the dreaming, sense does eventually kick in.

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