This is a time of change in the car industry, with the rapid growth of electrification and the rapidly increasing importance of software, connectivity and data prompting fundamental shifts in how we will interact with and use our vehicles. But that doesn’t mean that a bold future can’t come served up with a warming dose of nostalgia.
But the biggest takeaway from the 2023 Munich motor show is how familiar it looks. Most of the major launches from the established manufacturers present might were all thoroughly cutting-edge machines pushing cutting-edge technology – but they also came wrapped up in familiar styling and badges.
The best example was the BMW Neue Klasse concept, which previewed the next generation of the firm’s bespoke electric cars – but used the name given to the Bavarian firm’s line of transformative 1960s models and featured sharp, clean styling reminiscent of the glorious E30-vintage 3 Series.
Given its roots, nostalgia is almost baked into Mini’s DNA, but the brand’s latest generation three-door electric hatch, now carrying the Cooper badge, featured a pared-back design that honed in on classic elements.
With some of the early entries in its ID line-up of bespoke electric cars, Volkswagen seemed to shy away from its heritage, instead embracing a bold new styling. That’s changed under new boss Thomas Schafer: the firm’s big reveal was the ID GTI concept, which design cues that almost served as a GTI greatest hits package. It felt as much of a promise, as a show car: don’t worry, it says, we wouldn’t really be stupid enough to ditch GTI models.
Having revived the Fiat 500 in a past job, Renault boss Luca de Meo knows the value of a nostalgic nameplate, which explains why the brand’s future line-up will include new EVs sporting the Megane, 5 and 4 denominations. The latest revived nameplate is the Scenic, which was previously a ‘mono box’ MPV but is now something a bit closer to an SUV.
Mercedes-Benz’s big Munich reveal was the Concept CLA, which showcased the first of four compact cars that will sit on a new electric-first platform. The car majored on technology, with some bold efficiency claims that will allow for a range of more than 460 miles – built on plenty of learnings from the EQXX hyper-miler concept.