The bi-annual Frankfurt motor show yields more new metal; a chance to sit down with GM boss Mary Barra; London's cyclists are looking vigilant
Steve Cropley Autocar
28 September 2015

MONDAY AM - The most daunting, most exhilarating two days of our lives as car hacks occur every couple of years in mid-September. The Frankfurt motor show, to which we all obediently troop, is so packed with new models, so well attended by the right people, so vast in area and so vital to the future news/test agenda that you simply can’t miss it.

Attended my first in 1979, so this must have been my 19th, yet I’ve never managed to shake the fear, a couple of days beforehand, that my web of reporting arrangements will go seriously wrong.

At my first Frankfurt, Mercedes launched a super-aerodynamic S-Class – the W126 – that stressed the depth of its techno-credentials (much as it did this year with the magnificent IAA concept). As we arrived in Frankfurt this time, what should glide past but a healthy, well-used W126, still looking modern. Spent the rest of the trip wishing I could have seen its odometer.

MONDAY PM - Important highlight of Frankfurt was the much-heralded arrival of GM CEO Mary Barra. She hasn’t spent much time here because she’s been dealing with the aftermath of a serious ignition switch scandal, the kind of thing that regularly dogs US industry.

I was lucky enough to dine at the CEO’s table, surrounded by diplomats and respectful employees rather than platoons of scribblers, so it was possible to converse a bit and build a picture of a highly capable, articulate and affable car company boss, devoid of ego yet with obvious, effortless authority.

She seemed entirely genuine: a hard-working person whose knowledge of business and product came from deep experience. She loved engineering, she told me, and would be delighted if her example encouraged more girls into technology. Ended the evening convinced that General Motors, that unwieldy and restless giant, is safer in Barra’s hands than others I could name.

TUESDAY - This is the big reporting day at Frankfurt: early appointments give way to scuttling about after facts, then to early evening writing, then to dinners with normally elusive senior contacts.

Then it’s a walk or ride back to your digs to write into the small hours and (hopefully) post stuff on your website before your hated opposition can do the same. Beating your rivals by an hour is a big win at a time like this.

This time several of my journeys were effected in the plush rear perch of a new Audi Q7, a model about which I’ve been scathing in the past. Scratch that. This latest edition is a very strong SUV, and gets my wholehearted approval now that it’s stopped looking like a giant potato.   

WEDNESDAY - Could have taken the early flight home, but that would have been to miss out on revisiting my three favourites of this year’s show (each with a clunky name): Bentley Bentayga, Nissan Gripz and Honda 2&4. Took the second flight instead and thus arrived late and got drenched in a downpour riding my two-wheeler home. But it was worth it.

FRIDAY - Bit of a heavy contrast today: after the excitement of Frankfurt, a busy morning doing business in the midst of central London. Depressed to see just how many cyclists travel around the city these days with baby video cameras firmly attached to their helmets, as if it’s a given that at any moment, they’re going to be attacked by malicious surrounding riders and drivers, and will have to defend themselves in court.

Whatever happened to natural optimism? Now I see Garmin has started selling a satellite navigation system for cars that features an integrated forward-looking camera. Not for me, thank you.

Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

Join the debate

Comments
3

28 September 2015
Having been hit twice by drivers in the last two years who subsequently lied through their teeth to their insurers about what happened, I now have a dashboard camera. Nothing to do with lack of optimism, just realism and the desire to protect my no claims discount.

28 September 2015
If there were no Dashboard cameras, there wouldn't be any films of drunk Russians crashing on YouTube.

 

28 September 2015
Ah the sumptuous joys of the jobbing journo. And how nice to see Steve returning the favour to his head honcho chums. But what's this? Could the Wolfgang Hatz who departed VW last week really be the same fellow Autocar gave an award to? The same chap who was head of VW's engine development and knew all about the NOx scam? The same one Steve back-slapped, swilled champers with and gushed with praise over?
Steve Cropley 30 May 2015 wrote:

my coming to Germany to tell him he’s just won Autocar’s highest accolade, the 2015 Issigonis Trophy, which goes to car creators we especially admire, not only for the quality of their work but also for their way of doing it

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK