IAA 2019 — Thoughts On The Future Of German Compact Family Cars

The 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, IAA (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung), was a strange and different experience compared to the last time I was there.

The road trip in itself was a +1000 mile long and very satisfying experience in my Tesla Model 3, which I will dedicate another post to cover. In the following article, though, I will try to put into words the puzzling buzz of change in the realm of passenger cars from a consumer perspective.

Quick IAA 2017 Recap

I wrote about my trip to the IAA in 2017 on EVObsession, and apart from apologizing deeply that I drove in my son’s knackered 1994 VW Golf, because it would have been a nightmare to drive my own 1st-gen BMW i3 with what would have been around 30 charging stops in total, I also had this thought on the long drive home:

“When the German brands start offering a wide range of fully electric models, that are comparable to the current fossil fuel models, German EV sales will explode. The question is, will the German auto industry make the transition fast enough, and will they be able to keep up with demand? These heavyweight companies probably think they have a loyal customer base, but what if these people get tired of waiting and begin ordering Teslas? Or even Chinese models? The clock is ticking.”

Well, German auto giant Volkswagen Group may just make it in the nick of time, because what I think I saw at IAA 2019 was a whole lot of people ready to spend money on electric cars!

Pending Avalanche In The Electric Compact Segment

How was IAA 2019 different from 2017? When I entered the large exhibition hall housing VW, Porsche, Audi, Seat, and Skoda, it was very clear something had changed. I mean, there was an actual waiting line to enter the hall! And inside it was mayhem. This was Saturday, midday, and it seemed every German family, their kids included, was in that hall. Kids? Sure, it’s not unusual to see an occasional parent bring a child that has an interest in cars, but this was like Disneyland!

Slowly it dawned on me what was going on. The VW brand occupied half the hall, with all the I.D. vehicles center stage, which in itself was grand and sparkly, but not so many people were pushing to get to see the models on stage. No, because VW had cleverly placed several ID.3s all over the place and this is where the pushing and shoving was taking place, mostly by kids!

Volkswagen ID.3 electric car (Image: Volkswagen.com)

Volkswagen ID.3 electric car (Image: Volkswagen.com)

I recently had my Tesla Model 3 at a local town fair, and about 30 kids where crawling inside and out of my car, playing video games on the center screen and looking for buttons to push, all the while shouting at their father: “Buy one dad!” Father was glancing at mother, who was whistling through her teeth: “No!” (Because nobody has realized the Model 3 is considerably cheaper than the Model S). But here these ID.3s were filled with kids crawling all over and pushing all the buttons (yes, it has more buttons than the Model 3), and parents where nodding at each other and clearly thinking: “Yes, this could work!”

It was like the ketchup effect, propelled by the neighborhood effect. The last time I was here, I heard people who where looking at the prototype EVs and going: “Yeah, maybe it’s the future, but hey look, the new VW T-Roc is cool!” As if it would be embarrassing to even suggest the next family car could be electric. This time around everybody was fondling and probing the affordable compact electric vehicles, hardly noticing their internal combustion ancestors glooming in the corners.

Read more: Clean Technica

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