IAA: Reinvented and found to be good IAA: Reinvented and found to be good

The automotive industry is in transition and with it the future of motor fairs. The first IAA Mobility showed where the journey can lead.

Whether it was the IAA in Frankfurt, the Geneva Motor Show or the Paris Motor Show – for a long time, visits to the industry’s major trade fairs were obligatory for companies from the supplier sector. But is that still the case in 2021?

“Only to a limited extent,” is Olaf Hofmann's answer. For the technical director of soft trim, the first trade fair visit since CES in February 2020 was on the agenda at the beginning of September. “That obviously was a nice feeling, after all we also had to wait a long time for it. But a lot has changed – both for the exhibitors and the visitors,” says Hofmann.

Even before the pandemic, it was becoming apparent that the big car manufacturers were losing interest in the fairs. On the one hand because of the high costs, on the other hand because new vehicles can also be presented without a trade fair appearance – above all via the digital channels. The consequence: more than 20 manufacturers were absent from the IAA in 2019.

Two years after the last event, the trade show has reinvented itself. With the IAA Mobility, which was held in Munich for the first time, the organisers ventured into a concept that, according to Olaf Hofmann, deserves a lot of praise. “I was already impressed how a trade fair could be spread across the exhibition grounds and the city centre. People were used to everything taking place at one location,” he says.

The focus here was clearly on sustainability. “And for the first time, this was brought across in a predominantly honest way,” Hofmann says. “You didn't get the feeling that there was any greenwashing going on with the concept vehicles presented by the manufacturers. In the years before, you rather had the impression that green coating was merely done for marketing reasons.”

The new concept ensured that new target groups were addressed – people who otherwise would not have gone to a conventional car fair. “That is of course very nice and important. But I personally would have liked to see a little more focus on industry visitors. For us companies from the supplier industry in particular, trade fairs have always been an important element for exchanging ideas with customers and partners,” says the technical director.

Nevertheless, the conclusion of the first IAA Mobility is positive. “The organisers are on the right track,” Olaf Hofmann is certain. “However, it will be crucial to find a healthy mix of presence event and digital trade fair. A lot has happened here, and a lot will happen in the future.”