If there’s one calendar event I would never miss, it is Automechanika Frankfurt. However, much as I am a fan, I’d say the show itself this year (which was the first time since 2018 that it had taken place) had a different vibe to that in years gone by.
Perhaps it was the reduced number of international visitors, perhaps it was the pouring rain (the previous edition back in 2018 was held in bright sunshine) or perhaps it is the straightened times that we are living in, but the show felt somehow less gleeful than it had done in years gone by.
Part of this might be that many of the delegates were on a tighter schedule than before. Clearly a lot of people in the aisles had been sent by their companies to do business, and seemed to have targets to meet. There’s in itself nothing wrong with that of course, and on the whole the quality of visitors pleased most exhibitors that we spoke to, but it did feel to me that a lot of people at the show were more hurried than ever before.
While the show’s mood was somewhat muted compared with previous editions, it didn’t detract from what was on offer, both from the exhibitors and from the strong and varied programme of seminars and sideshows.
The shape of the stands themselves deserves a mention though. In previous editions there had been a trend for some of the largest parts suppliers to build ‘up’ with lavish double deck stands. This time we only counted two multi-storey sets (Brembo and TecDoc if you are interested) out of the 2,800 exhibiting companies. Firms that previously took a lot of space reduced their presence dramatically. Schaeffler for example once took most of Hall 1, but only had a relatively modest presence this time around. Likewise, Bosch took far fewer square metres while Valeo didn’t come at all.
The latter was an exception though, and even with slightly smaller stands and smaller teams, the vast majority of exhibitors from previous editions were present to show off their wares. There were a number of launches at the event. First Brands (AKA Trico Group) announced it was to relaunch the Autolite spark plug brand in the UK. Autolite was once an OE producer directly owned by Ford, but was sold decades ago and the product hadn’t been widely distributed in the UK or Europe for years.
Another old brand with a new twist came courtesy of SMP Europe which announced a plan to use the Intermotor brand on an all-new line up range of aftermarket parts only for electric vehicles. One of the team told us that they didn’t want to wait for ‘the market to tell us what is already happening’. Rather, the firm wants to be first to market with a number of new references that are currently not available outside of the dealer network.
Brembo used the show to launch a disc and pad set called ‘Greenance’. Low-dust and anti-rust brake components could be something that performance EV owners would like to upgrade to, but the set will surely be music to the ears of stockists as the high-margin discs are designed to only be used with the matching pads.
Aside from slightly smaller stands the Parts and Components halls looked much the same as they always had. However, the Accessories and Consumables are, this time housed on the upper level of Hall 12, literally a mile away from the main entrance, was looking somewhat unfinished. Big gaps between stands, roped off sessions of the hall and ailes widened beyond the edge of the carpet suggested that there were not enough exhibitors, and those that were there had not taken as much space as usual.
Trading groups large and small were at the show, whether in an official capacity or just as visitors. Nexus held a press conference in one of the side rooms where CEO Gael Escribe spelled out his plans for the group in the electrification era, while smaller rival groups Amerigo and Group One International hosted stands.
As my time was spent literally running between meetings, I didn’t get time for the event’s wide-ranging seminar programme. This was a shame as the topic list and speaker line-up looked really interesting. I did catch a minute of one presentation about advances in car body restoration techniques and another about a planned resurgence of remanufacturing (apparently part of a series of talks on the topics). There was also a mini Awards show celebrating innovations, which I unfortunately did not get a chance to see, but by all accounts it was a good event. On the whole, I would imagine that there are very few visitors that would visit Automechanika just for these side shows, but having them makes the show feel much more like an all-encompassing event, rather than just a big trade fair.
While I’m being a little hard on the presentation of the show, credit must go to all those at Messe Frankfurt that put it on. The last few years have been disastrous for the events industry all around the world and in every sector. The headcount of staff is down and money is tight, but as the trite saying runs, the show must go on. It did indeed go on, and in some areas it was better than ever. Come rain or shine I’ll certainly be back for the next edition.