September sees the biennial staging of Europe’s largest and most prestigious motor show; the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung, often abbreviated to IAA and better known as the Frankfurt Motor Show.
Themed around the slogan ‘Driving Tomorrow’, there’ll be many world premieres of new cars as well as the latest mobile trends such as electric vehicles, digital information and entertainment, and automated driving. This is the global motor industry’s chance to showcase its cars for 2020, and lift the covers on planned concepts for the years beyond.
Being the German auto industry’s home show, there’ll be grand displays of all their marques, reminiscent of the British Motor Show at its peak in the 70s and 80s. The good news for UK motoring enthusiasts is that, with cheap and frequent flights to Frankfurt, a visit to the show is within the realm of a short break – or even day trip!
The Frankfurt show will be open to the public from Saturday 14th September through to Sunday 22nd September 2019, providing plenty of opportunities to see the latest models from all the manufacturers together in one show.
Not every manufacturer, though. Worth noting is that, just like at last year’s Paris Motor Show, some have chosen to bypass Frankfurt, including Fiat, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Rolls-Royce, Subaru, Suzuki and Volvo. Still, everybody else will be there to put on a show for you, so here’s what you need to know.
Travel and Accommodation
Frankfurt is the financial centre of Germany, so hotels are at their busiest Monday to Thursday. Cheap deals can be found from Friday to Sunday, making a long weekend break ideal to see the motor show, plus leaving some time for sightseeing. The usual business hotels are within walking distance of the show, but cheaper and more interesting hotels are dotted around the city.
The show is staged just 15 minutes’ walk from the Frankfurt Main (Hauptbahnhof) railway station, so use this or Frankfurt Messe (the show halls themselves) when using online search engines to find the best hotel deals near the showgrounds.
Airport hotel tend to be cheaper than the main city centre options. With a quick and easy train journey into Frankfurt, there’s little inconvenience, but you do trade a significant saving for some of the glamour of Frankfurt.
Direct flights from Heathrow, Stansted and London City are avialble from British Airways, Lufthnasa and Ryanair, with Lufthansa serving other regional airports including Birmingham, Manchester, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Frankfurt has one main city airport and a regional one, but do be careful which you book: Frankfurt (FRA) is a busy city airport on the scale of Heathrow which is just a short journey on the suburban rail (S-Bahn lines S8 or S9 for 5 euros) to Frankfurt main station.
The other airport is Frankfurt Hahn (HHN) which is a much smaller regional airport. This is a two-hour coach journey (by BOHR) from the city centre (cost 19 euros) but this does deliver you conveniently to the main railway station. Hahn is used by budget airlines and can be a very cost-effective way of travelling from the UK, with return flights sometimes available for as little as £30, but do factor in the extra travel time and costs involved.
The show is held at the Messe Frankfurt, a large exhibition centre. The show spreads across 12 halls and galleries, all connected via walking escalators. The German car marques have lavish displays which, during peak times, operate a queueing system to enter; if you arrive late, head to Halls 5-9 as these contain the non-German marques and suppliers, neatly avoiding the crowds queueing for entrance to the Audi, BMW, Mercedes and VW halls.
Visit the IAA Arena in the central outdoor area and take the wheel of some of the launch cars as well as the current models presented by your favourite car manufacturer. If you want some excitement then the IAA Off Road test track is the place to put new SUVs and off-road vehicles to the test over extreme inclines, bumpy slopes and a seesaw. New for 2019 is an outdoor circuit to trial e-bikes and scooters., with visitors able to put the latest models through their paces on a 125-meter track that includes banked turns, a rumble strip and various types of terrain.
For those who prefer classic cars, a special classic show, IAA Heritage by Motorworld, will present an exhibition of exclusively premium classic cars and motorcycles. On Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th September only, the show hosts a model car collector fair ‘Autorama’ in Gallery 1, a must see for model collectors.
Children under seven get free admission on each day of the show, and are especially catered for with many attractions on the stands. A feature of international shows is the many branded items such as pens, badges and hats given out on the stands to highlight a new car launch. This year’s show also includes an unforgettable experience of a kids driving test and off-road challenge.
Entrance to the show for adults is just 17 euros (around £16) at weekends and 15 euros (£14) on weekdays. The show is open from 9:00am to 7:00pm every day, except the 20th September where it starts and finishes two hours later, allowing evening viewing right up until 9:00pm.
Big new launches are always a feature of the Frankfurt Motor Show, particularly for the German car companies. It is a bit early to list the new premieres, but already strong industry rumours have indicated the star of the show could be a new BMW Vision M Next Concept, said to be a successor to legendary M1.
Porsche revealed their electric Mission E concept to the world four years ago at Frankfurt and this could be the likely stage to launch the first output from this technology by the reveal of the first Porsche all-electric car, the Taycan.
Frankfurt will also see the return of Ford to the European International Motor Show arena. The likely big Ford premieres will be the new Ford Puma and their first fully electric SUV called the Mach 1.
Ferrari could well steal the show headlines by revealing its new plug-in hybrid, the SF90 Stradale, named after the 90th Anniversary of Scuderia Ferrari and their current Formula 1 racing car. This is the most extreme car from Maranello since the LaFerrari.
As you can see, there will be plenty to occupy all motoring fans at the Frankfurt show, but even seasoned visitors need to remember a few important tips…
- Wear comfortable shoes; the show is huge, with some stands the size of a football pitch.
- Carry plenty of water – you will need it.
- Hand your coat or jacket in at the entrance to avoid carrying it around the show.
- Print a copy of the guide map in advance. You can get it from the show website, and make a plan of the cars you really want to see.
- Take your driving licence and passport so you can test drive some new launch vehicles or future mobility prototypes.
- Weekdays have a reduced afternoon admission price of 12 euros after 3pm, handy if your time is limited.
- Friday 20th September has late night opening until 9pm.
- Thursday 12th September and Friday 13th September are trade days. They’re less busy than public days, but it will cost you 48 euros to get in.
Lastly, if you have time for some sightseeing in the city, don’t miss a trip to the top of the ‘Main Tower’ to witness the skyline during sunset, and discover why Frankfurt is sometimes called ‘Mainhattan’.