Welcome to Autocar’s extended coverage of the Frankfurt motor show, one of Europe’s major motoring events and the place to see an extensive list of new cars make their debut.
Traditionally the world’s largest motor show, Frankfurt sees the automotive industry descend on the city every two years to see new metal for the first time. This year was no exception, with the show featuring game-changing unveilings from, Volkswagen, Land Rover and more.
That said, there was still quite a crowd gathered around the conventionally fuelled new cars - especially the reborn Land Rover Defender. We were on site in Frankfurt to bring you every single reveal, with our live blog and coverage on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube channels.
Frankfurt motor show 2019: Steve Cropley's show report
The good Frankfurt motor show news is that, despite the non-participation of around one-third of Europe’s car-selling marques this year, the event was still a big success. Threatened anti-car protests inside the show halls failed to materialise, and several of the major debuts were truly momentous.
The bad news is that visiting the remaining exhibitors required the application of as much shoe-leather as ever: the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung remains famous for positioning marques that should logically to be neighbours half a mile apart.
However, it was the history-making nature of this year’s exhibits that stood out. The debut of the new Land Rover Defender was important in two ways: first because it presented a renewed version of a revered model; second because for all the talk of hybridisation, the Defender’s mostly combustion propulsion suddenly seemed rather strange and different against the sophisticated electrification on offer everywhere else.
Not that the Defender’s debut lacked passion and enthusiasm: there was plenty of both. People cheered and whooped as different models were successively unveiled. The voice of JLR boss Ralf Speth – correctly but unusually labelled ‘Sir Ralf Speth’ for this special occasion – cracked a little as he described how he’d been the one who killed the old Defender four years ago, and what a pleasure it was “to give the new Defender back”.
After all the controversy over various Defender concepts on the journey to production, there seemed an almost uniform appreciation among Frankfurt attendees for the aptness of the new Defender’s concept and styling, surely a relief to all JLR insiders. It was perfectly clear how much trouble the design and engineering teams had taken over this vital new entry.
Much the same enthusiasm greeted the pretty electric hatch that begins the third age of Volkswagen, the ID 3. After all the publicity, and taking into account that we’ve become used over the years to VW’s calm, classical approach to styling, the car’s actual look was hardly a surprise. But it was still awe-inspiring actually to see our mainstream motoring future in three dimensions. Suddenly VW’s much-ballyhooed electrification gamble doesn’t look like a gamble at all.
The quality of the exhibits continued. BMW showed its future thinking with the Concept 4 Series, which will be the basis of both the conventional new 4 Series coupé and the new all-electric i4. The latter will thus be entirely different in concept from the i3, which was so separate, special (and eye-wateringly expensive to make).
Flexible platforms like the future i4’s may not promote optimised electric car packaging but they’re clearly proving to be the way to go in this transition-to-electrification age. Opel-Vauxhall, the only PSA marque to make it to Geneva, also made this point powerfully with its pretty new B-segment Corsa and e-Corsa, whose proportions and styling are identical.