The event, known by its initials IAA, opens to the public on Thursday with fewer participants and visitors but more world premieres, the German VDA auto federation said this week.
“Innovation is the way out of the crisis” that global automakers have been in since last year, said Matthias Wissmann, head of the German VDA auto federation that organises the show in alternance with one in Paris.
A total of 781 auto and auto parts manufacturers from 30 countries are to present around 100 new models, VDA said Monday.
The sector is abuzz about electric vehicles (EVs) being developed by major auto makers, and cross-border cooperation is another hot topic of discussion.
In the background, western European car sales have fallen by 11 percent in the first half of 2009 according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, despite hefty government subsidy schemes.
Major markets in Germany, Britain, Italy, France and Spain have been spared the worst owing to “cash-for-clunkers” programmes that encouraged drivers to scrap old cars for new ones, but the boost they gave will peter out in 2010.
In terms of visitors, the Frankfurt show expects around 750,000 people to turn up, compared with almost one million two years ago.
“There will be claims that the end of the crisis is in sight, but in truth the sector is in grave danger,” warned the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper as key Japanese brands like Honda and Mitsubishi bowed out of the show.
Wissmann nonetheless insisted that the number of new items would see this year’s edition “gain in quality” despite the lower numbers.
Many manufacturers plan to present EVs or hybrid vehicles that run on petrol and electricity.
Among the eagerly awaited roll-outs are one from BMW’s Mini unit and a four-auto range from city cars to utility models by Renault-Nissan.
“Electric vehicles will be seen on almost every stand,” German auto expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer forecast.
Fuel-cell and hybrid vehicles from Mercedes, Peugeot and Toyota are getting polished up for opening day as well.
Sector experts will be looking meanwhile for automaker plans to boost joint efforts in a bid to bring down development costs, with former and current rivals possibly unveiling alliances.
Among the flashy high-end premieres, Audi, BMW and Mercedes have new models ready to roar, not to mention Ferrari’s latest rocket, the 458 Italia.