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The Best Cars We Saw at the IAA Mobility Show in Munich

In the first big motor show since the pandemic hit, e-bikes, scooters, buses and pods were so prevalent they almost crowded out the cars. Here’s what you need to know.

Visitors look at the Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept vehicle.
By Hannah Elliott
September 09, 2021 | 09:55 am

Bloomberg — By Hanna Elliott

This week, Munich is hosting IAA Mobility, a reinvention of the car show that for seven decades occurred annually in Frankfurt, until the Covid-19 pandemic forced its cancelation in 2020.

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Set amid environmental protests that shut down roadways and the buildup to a Sept. 26 election that will see German Chancellor Angela Merkel replaced after 16 years, IAA has been rebranded to a “mobility” showcase of electric scooters and e-bikes, electric buses and trams, transportation pods, and—oh, yes—some cars, too.

A Mercedes-Benz AG EQC electric SUV (left) at Daimler's Open Space display. The IAA, now taking place in Munich, is Europe's first major in-person car show since the Covid-19 pandemic started. Although climate concerns and virus woes threatened to dampen the party, automakers seemed in optimistic spirits as they debuted their best guesses for what the future might hold for vehicles.  Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloombergdfd
Luca de Meo, chief executive officer of Renault, unveils the Megane E-Tech electric vehicle on opening day. Most brands showing vehicles are based in Germany; the bulk of the rest were, like Renault, based in greater Europe or Asia. Hyundai, for instance, committed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloombergdfd

It was the first major automotive show to be held since pandemic cancelations brought Germany’s trade show industry a $47 billion loss, according to the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry.

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Auto brands were already questioning the relevance of car shows before the novel coronavirus arrived. Ferrari, Aston Martin, McLaren, and Bentley opted to skip this one, too. But several major manufacturers thought it worth their while to be a part of the confab, which was staged at Munich’s gargantuan convention hall and some of the city’s most significant and beautiful historical sites, including the Bayerische Staatsoper opera house. Merkel and Formula One Champion Nico Rosberg were among the attendees.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled five battery-powered vehicles (plus a hybrid), kicking off a $47 billion effort to push its electric models deeper into consumer land. Foremost among them is the EQE, the follow-up to the stately EQS sedan that Mercedes started selling last month. The EQS’s smaller, less-expensive sibling is expected to bolster the company’s sales volume, revenue and margins.

Attendees view the Mercedes-Benz EQG electric SUV concept on Sunday, before the show's official opening. As the latest take on Mercedes's iconic Gelaendewagen, the electric G-Wagen loses the grille of the gas-powered G-Class for a black panel with an illuminated three-pointed star and brilliant, round LED headlights. Protective strips run the length of its body, and a squared-off rear box will hold the spare tire and charging cord. The company has not yet confirmed it will make the EQG but has this design is a “near-production study. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloombergdfd
Britta Seeger, a member of Daimler's management board, speaks while unveiling the Mercedes-Maybach EQS. The bulky luxury SUV includes massive amounts of chrome, 24-inch Bowl rims on its wheels and a first-class rear suite with two individual seats, the customary champagne holder and cooling box, and a high-end sound and visual entertainment system. According to Mercedes, a non-Maybach EQS electric SUV will debut in 2022, with the Mercedes-Maybach EQS likely to follow. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloombergdfd

The AMG EQS, AMG GT 4-Door Coupe and EQB also joined the group, which was highlighted by the Mercedes-Maybach SUV design concept, a rounded, two-tone rig with Maybach logos repeated across its nooks and crannies like the stamping of the Louis Vuitton “LV” on a handbag. During a roundtable with reporters, Mercedes-Maybach head Philipp Schiemer said such an expensive vehicle is crucial to Mercedes-Benz’s long-term goals.

“New technology for the luxury customer is always interesting,” Schiemer told the reporters. “There will be more confidence [in electric power] as we move into the new era, so it’s absolutely logical for us to put our efforts toward electrification.”

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The all-electric, 516-horsepower BMW iX SUV offers 300 miles of range and a battery capacity of up to 113 kilowatt-hours, thanks to dual electric motors and electric all-wheel drive. It is reasonably fast, with a zero to 60 mph sprint time of 4.6 seconds. BMW is currently taking pre-orders with deposits.  Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloombergdfd
The BMW i Vision Circular Concept vehicle is made using primary materials and is 100% recyclable, according to BMW. While it is not expected to be mass produced this is a visionary vehicle for 2040—the compact hatchback incorporates elements that may end up in cars. Its kidney grille has been stretched and hashmarked beyond recognition (except perhaps for a nod to the BMW 507's grille of yesteryear). The spacious interior is shaped like a single pod or box and features a 3D-printed steering wheel and a crystal-like interface.  Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloombergdfd

Meanwhile, hometown hero BMW announced it would its double orders for battery cells as it unveiled the production versions of its iX and i4 electric cars, as well as a number of electric motorcycles.

“Rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle,” BMW’s top executive Oliver Zipse repeated during his presentation at the group’s big event.

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The BMW i4 sedan is like an electrified BMW 4 Series vehicle, with an estimated 300-mile range and a starting price of just over $55,000. BMW is offering two variant choices: an i4 eDrive40 (335 horsepower, zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, rear-wheel drive, and a range of up to 300 miles) and an i4 M50 (536 horsepower, zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, all-wheel drive, and range up to 240 miles). Deliveries are expected to begin in the first part of 2022. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloombergdfd
The Porsche Mission R concept car is the marque’s way of testing EV technology on a two-door, mid-engine race-car platform. It has two newly developed electric motors that deliver up to 800 kW and a battery capacity of around 80 kWh. Total running time for the car on track is expected to top out before 45 minutes; Porsche executives say they are still working on the car and will make improvements before it potentially goes into production in 2024 or 2025. Such a vehicle would race in customer cup car races single-manufacturer races for Porsche owners. A total of 30 one-make cup series is held worldwide with such reliable, high-performance racing cars as the 911 and Cayman, Porsche says. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloombergdfd

Chief among the BMW proposals was the i Vision Circular pod made from recycled, unpainted aluminum, steel, and other reused materials. The conceptual hatchback was intended to show what a BMW could be like in the year 2040. It most notably elongated the shape of the signature kidney grills on the front and gained digital surfaces along its window trims and undulating lights along the rear.

Stuttgart, Germany-based Porsche showed an electric vehicle that’s decidedly not about recycling and more about driving—fast. The Porsche Mission R concept is the company’s hypothetical take on what a customer “cup car” racer would be like if powered by electric batteries. Roughly the size of a Porsche Cayman, with a single seat and a roll cage integrated directly into its roof, the Mission R is neither road-legal nor cleared for FIA-sanctioned racing. If given the go-ahead, the car is likely to be produced in 2024 or so and would comply with whatever regulations are in place, Porsche CEO Oliver Blume tells Bloomberg.

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Along with e-fuels, fast-charging networks, hybrids, and the successful electric Taycan sedan, the car is part of Porsche’s goal to become carbon-neutral by 2030. “We see ourselves as pioneers in investing and developing this technology,” Blume says.

While many electric cars unveiled at the Munich show fall into the luxury segment, the Volkswagen ID.LIFE shows what entry-level electric cars might look like in 10 years. The concept provides a preview of an ID model in the small car segment that we will be launching in 2025, priced at around 20,000 [$23,600]. This means we are making electric mobility accessible to even more people,” said Ralf Brandstaetter, CEO of the Volkswagen brand.  Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloombergdfd
The small, boxy SUV is designed for driving on tight city streets, while the clean, minimal interior is designed to sooth rather than stimulate. It is based on a smaller variant of Volkswagen's modular electric drive matrix (MEB) that was developed specifically for the small car segment. With its 172 kW electric motor, the ID.LIFE can get from zero to 62 mph in 6.9 seconds, while its 57 kWh battery enables a range of 248 miles. This is the first time a vehicle based on the MEB will feature front-wheel drive. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloombergdfd

As for Audi, the Ingolstadt, Germany-based VW brand unveiled the second in its series of three “sphere” conceptual cars, the Grandsphere, just weeks after it showed the Skysphere coupe concept in Los Angeles.

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The electric precursor to a sedan set for production in 2025, Grandsphere has an autonomous mode that tucks away the steering wheel and pedals. It has a total driving range of 466 miles and can charge for 186 miles of driving in 10 minutes when needed, using a special charger.

Audi brass have promised to make all new vehicles electric from 2026 onward. Annual deliveries of Audi cars will double to 3 million by 2030, they said.

Judging from the week in Munich, the German automakers may fare well with their fast-approaching gamble on electric mobility—at least in Europe. German sales of electric cars are expected to reach 3.4 million annually in 2040, according to BloombergNEF’s long-term electric vehicle outlook. The figure would amount to more than 90% of the country’s entire new-car sales.