Could a German car exhibition truly become a platform for the bicycle industry to stake its claim as a key part of future mobility? Jo Beckendorff seeks to understand the steering change with IAA Mobility…
The moderation between the various interest groups in transport is definitely one of the major issues for discussion when visualising the bicycle trade’s future. However, the mobility turnaround discussion is extremely conflict-laden. This has become clear since the German international automobile show IAA introduced its new show concept. After the shift from the city of Frankfurt to Munich the IAA automotive show is debuting as a mobility show. According to its organisers it should bring all mobility sectors together at one table. Some chairs are also reserved for the bicycle and e-Bike industry. Could this year’s debuting IAA Mobility (7 to 12 September 2021) concept create a togetherness that overcomes all conflicts?
According to the president of the German Automobile Industry Association (VDA), Hildegard Müller, the new IAA Mobility concept “will point on solutions for connecting mobility demands in ways that are efficient, economical and socially and environmentally acceptable”.
So far so good – the problem is that other industry associations out of the mobility world – including the ones out of the bicycle sectors – believe that VDA as the co-organizer of IAA Mobility and its members aren’t best suited to delivering a real change. Among the harshest criticisms is that the car industry’s “green vehicle” invitations intend nothing but “green- washing” its industry’s and trade show’s image. For them, the huge automotive industry – especially “in the car nation Germany” – is seen as a preventer of any other mobility solution than cars.
On the other hand: how can the new platform help create a real mobility change with- out the by far largest and politically very well-connected mobility industry?
Germany’s car industry has an image problem
The image of the German automotive industry – especially since Dieselgate – hasn’t been the best. The actions taken by car suppliers in these Covid-19 times are also seen by consumers skeptically: on the one hand these big German players are welcoming governmental short-time-working grants and receive further subsidies during any lockdown periods. On the other hand, they use these days for “right- sizing” (strategically slashing up jobs that would be hard to do in non-Coronavirus days).
The recent published 2020 financial results were also controversial in the auto world. Major critics say that in these days of crisis huge players keep nothing but their shareholders happy. The consumer isn’t impressed either, perceiving that the government is using their tax money and giving it to Germany’s all-important car industry. An alliance formed already under the hashtag #noIAA. Despite all efforts to give the show a green makeover they blame the auto show as “a symbol of profit maximisation at the expense of people, the environment and the climate”.
For a real mobility turnaround all parties must work together
“At some point, enough with the bashing,” stated Munich’s economic affairs officer Clemens Baumgärtner speaking to a German newspaper. He said that, in Munich, 140,000 jobs depend on the auto industry. adding “We don’t have to be ashamed of this key industry.”
IAA co-organizer Messe Munich Executive Director Business Unit Consumer Goods Tobias Gröber points on the fact that “in the long term, mobility is no longer an individualisation feature”. It doesn’t matter how many prejudices and complaints there are between all mobility segments – he’s certain that for a real mobility turnaround all competing parties have to stick together.
“Mobility is frequently presented as an ‘either-or’ choice – pleasure versus sustainability, urban versus rural, individual versus public. But mobility is always a diverse,” adds Müller, “What is more, mobility and climate protection do not contradict each other, there is no ‘either-or’, only an ‘and’. The latest technologies and fascinating vehicles developed by the German automotive industry form the basis for a new sustainability. This IAA Mobility will demonstrate that in all its diversity.”
That’s why both show organizers VDA and Messe München are also taking a deeper look at the bicycle and e-Bike sector. What does that mean for the bicycle industry? According to the German bicycle industry association ZIV (a Eurobike cooperating partner) the repositioning of the IAA by the VDA as a general mobility fair is a step taken which is comprehensible. Nevertheless “whether other means of transport are actually competing on an equal footing with the automobile remains to be at least doubtful. Therefore, the ZIV decided against a participation at this year’s premiere of IAA Mobility”.
While some suppliers stick with the traditional but also somehow struggling bicycle show Eurobike in Friedrichshafen, others have grabbed the chance for an exhibition debut on the new IAA Mobility show. At the beginning of February, Messe Munich announced that aside from e-Bike drivetrain makers Bosch, Brose, Fazua, Mahle, Valeo and ZF the following complete bike and e-Bike makers confirmed their show-participation: Ca Go, Internetstores (Fixie Inc. and Votec brands), Pierer E-Bikes (GasGas Bicycles, Husqvarna E-Bicycles and R Raymon brands), Hartmobile (Qwic brand), Riese & Müller, Rose Bikes, Scott Sports Group (Bergamont and Scott brands), Simplon, Specialized and MyStromer (Stromer brand) – not to forget German bicycle buyers powerhouse ZEG with its private labels and brands Bulls, Flyer, Hercules, i:SY, Kettler Alu-Rad, Pegasus and Wanderer.
Further brands such as Canyon and Rotwild and first bicycle component makers followed later. The participation of the mentioned e-drivetrain makers isn’t a surprise. With the exception of Fazua they are all having their roots in the automotive industry. The noted bicycle and e-Bike suppliers are the other way round: with Pierer E-Bikes GmbH and its parent company Pierer Mobility’s roots in the motorbike segment there is only one exception.
A key steal for IAA that furthers its broadened appeal is, with the help of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI), which is well known to Messe München (among others organizer of the world’s leading sporting goods show Ispo), the show organiser succeeded in getting WFSGI’s World Cycling Forum (WCF) on board. The WCF 2021 is now planned from the 6th to 7th of September at Messe München’s International Congress Center München (ICM).
What convinced the mentioned bicycle and e-Bike suppliers to participate in IAA Mobility? “We were impressed by the inclusive and innovative concept of the trade show”, states Riese & Müller co- founder and co-MD Heiko Müller. “IAA Mobility is an important platform for us to present our vision and our products for climate-neutral mobility to an international audience.”
“We are looking forward to being part of the first IAA in Munich in 2021. This is also an exciting event for us, as it will be the first leading international trade show to focus on very different players in the field of mobility. This opens up the opportunity for constructive discourse for everyone in equal measure. We are hoping for many sparks of inspiration and, with our participation, we would naturally like to make our contribution to a holistic, well thought-out mobility revolution,” says Pierer E-Bikes MD of Sales and Marketing Susanne Puello.
“The importance of bicycles has increased enormously in recent years, particularly with regard to the aspects of mobility, sustainability and health. For our brands Scott and Bergamont, the IAA in Munich offers us the perfect platform to demonstrate that we, in a variety of ways, are an innovative part of this development, and are actively helping to shape it,” Scott Sports’ Group General Manager Germany/Austria Hans Holzinger points out.
What also convinced the labels is the B2B approach under the “Summit” umbrella for brand and product presentations on the Munich fairground in connection with the B2C aspect under the “Open Space” umbrella. This includes a mobility experience for all, including B2C networking stations in downtown Munich. A so-called “Blue Lane” will connect the city center and the fair- ground with a test track “where forward-looking mobility becomes a real experience”.
Will the bike industry go from very little event activity to two major events days apart, we have to ask?
For the bicycle industry the communicated IAA Mobility 2021 show date of 7th to 12th of September is a hurdle. The Munich show opens its doors three days after this year’s Eurobike (planned from the 1st to 4th of September) in Friedrichshafen. The dates are so close that most bicycle suppliers have to choose their participation for one or the other show.
“As a mobility solution provider, we see the IAA as an ideal platform. It will be our first visit to the IAA. We will therefore not be represented at Eurobike, especially since we are still holding our own two dealer events”, says for example MyStromer communication manager Fabienne Gilliéron on request.
This year Pierer E-Bikes has also chosen IAA Mobility. “We will be there with all our brands. The reasons for this were the location in Munich, the focus on urban mobility, the clear focus on the entire area of e-Mobility and the event orientation, including end-consumer focus”, states MD Susanne Puello.
With an eye on the pandemic Riese & Müller’s Head of Communications Jörg Matheis says it’s difficult to decide: “Without the coronavirus situation we would exhibit on IAA Mobility and not Eurobike. The IAA show concept and the easy to reach Munich location convinced us. But in these days we have to be very flexible. We don’t know what’s going on whether in Munich, nor in Friedrichshafen in September.” When asking ZEG they answer carefully as well that “we are currently still in the planning phase and cannot provide any information in this regard at this time.”
For Scott Sports’ CMO and Brand Manager Reto Aeschbacher, his company’s IAA Mobility exhibition isn’t at all against Eurobike: “But as long as this trade show is in September it’s too late for us. We would prefer a dealer show in July.”
On IAA Mobility in September his company is eyeing consumers: “The Scott bicycle product line is rooted more in sports than mobility. For us IAA Mobility is a good test balloon to get in direct contact with consumers.”
German bicycle industry veteran and Merida & Centurion Germany (MCG) MD, Wolfgang Renner, takes up the cudgels for Eurobike. With this year’s Eurobike participation “we would like to underline the significance and importance of the leading trade fair for the bicycle industry – especially for smaller specialist dealers – for almost 30 years now. Ducking away would be the wrong way”.
Last, but not least, there are others avoiding a clear answer at all. They will wait and see how the Covid situation develops. It could still be that due to the virus one of the two shows has to be cancelled and the other is able to welcome exhibitors and visitors. No bicycle supplier wants to miss the chance to participate at least on one industry get-together.
For further info on IAA Mobility 2021 event visit the site here.