If you attend the press days at a global auto show it’s not uncommon to see men with clipboards pouring over a new car. Back in the day, it was usually a Japanese engineer with a complex pre-printed form to fill out.

Indeed, the bench markers were famously first exposed when the Land Rover Discovery made its motor show debut back in 1989. According to the story, a Japanese engineer – equipped with a razor blade and matchbox – was caught slicing away samples of the Discovery’s interior.

If you’re old enough you might remember that the Discovery's interior was much hyped at the time, having been developed with the help of designers Conran and then winning a British Design Council award.

You can understand that the Japanese carmakers of the time were anxious about the arrival of the Discovery: in a segment that had been dominated by brands such as Toyota and Mitsubishi, the arrival of a rival with a much more car-like interior was a big move in what was then the market for utilitarian off-roaders.

Today, however, the bench markers are no longer surreptitious individuals concerned with keeping track of major product initiatives. This week’s Frankfurt motor show was host to the most audacious and widespread detailed examination of cars I’ve seen in two decades of attending motor shows.