That has probably never happened before at a motor show: The head of government comes in through the door – and receives spontaneous applause. But this time everything should be different, and it is: The IAA is the first time in Munich, which leads the Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder to the somewhat crooked saying “Auto’s coming home”. Not only sheet metal and chrome can be seen in the halls, but visions of the mobility of tomorrow, as they say here. And above all: It will be Angela Merkel’s last appearance in her most important industry.
Even if her predecessor Gerhard Schröder seemed to have leased the term, Angela Merkel is the real car chancellor. She brought the industry through the economic crisis and the corona epidemic, also with billions in aid, in the diesel scandal she helped with rather strict words. You can clap there.
Even if not everyone sees it that way. For a long time this Tuesday, it didn’t seem very clear that the IAA could even start on time. Because already in the morning the many demonstration groups had started with blockade actions. Pretty much all motorways were closed because activists roped off bridges: “Next exit, climate crisis” was written there. And instead of “Neufahrn”, drivers read at the corresponding motorway junction: “Traffic collapse”.
That is also different: the protests have increased again compared to the last IAA two years ago, just as climate change has also gained in priority since then.
And the topic – climate change and the measures taken against it – runs through this opening in the somewhat overcooled hall. Munich’s Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter as host gives the moderator. He appeals to the demonstrators to express their protests peacefully, although they are vehemently criticizing the city: In the outside areas, the “open spaces”, the municipality has completely given up its domiciliary rights and thus made itself the bailiff of the industry. Reiter knows that – and appeals to the business people in the hall: “Listen carefully to what is being discussed.”
Reiter is aware that it will not be so easy to get people out of their cars and into more public transport. He reports on the increasing number of registrations for new cars in the city and concludes from this: Many people don’t really want to say goodbye to their own cars just yet.
Söder’s surprise guest comes from Baden-Württemberg
The Bavarian Prime Minister knows that too, of course. Söder identified many “car fans”, which is why Germany needs “strong automobility”. Other forms of mobility? The CSU man is only marginally concerned with them. Yes, we also like bicycles and public transport, “but the train is also very crowded.” And by the way: “Not everyone in Germany can get to work by bike in wind and weather.”
So the tone is set again in the direction of the auto industry. And that is why it expects the next federal government to have the right framework conditions for climate-neutral mobility. According to the president of the VDA industry association, Hildegard Müller, the industry is “no ifs or buts” to the goal of climate neutrality. But politicians must also provide enough green electricity, a charging network and give companies the money they need for the conversion.
And the Chancellor? At first it is sober as you know it, perhaps also because it had to debate Afghanistan in the Bundestag that morning. “We have to get even better here,” she says to the charging stations, and then aptly states that the top topic of electromobility was still characterized by reluctance a few years ago. After all: after an hour tour of the fair – completely without an audience in view of the protest situation – it is more differentiated. There is “a hint of a leap in quality in the direction of autonomous driving,” she says. This can be interpreted as praise or criticism, depending on your mood, although she is always disappointed when a project turns out to be just a vision vehicle. On the other hand, their verdict on electromobility is beyond any doubt: “It is a real quantum leap compared to the last IAA.” All of them now have buyable e-cars on offer that are suitable for everyday use.
A million such vehicles should be there in 2020, Merkel once proclaimed a goal, recalls BMW boss Oliver Zipse, at whose stand the Chancellor draws her brief summary. And with only a little delay, it has meanwhile been achieved. “Thank you for 16 years,” says Zipse. “We will miss you.”