Wednesday 25 April 2018

Irish eyes smiling at Frankfurt: 'up to 150,000' new-car sales next year

Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham, John Galvin and Cathal Doyle report from this autumn's big motor show

The Opel Astra at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany
The Opel Astra at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany
The Mercedes C-Class Coupe at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany
The Volkswagen Tiguan at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany
The Suzuki Baleno at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany
The new Opel Astra is unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany
The Ford Edge at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany
The Honda Civic Tourer at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany

Amid the staggering spread of new cars and the hustle, bustle and razzmatazz of the Frankfurt Motor Show, there were smiles all round - not least from the Irish motoring executives out here.

Exuding a quiet confidence that only a strong upturn in business can bring - they are cautiously re-assessing their outlooks for next year - upwards of course.

While much depends on how the Budget treats motoring in particular and potential customers in general, there is a sense that many more people will buy in 2016.

Opel's Irish boss Dave Sheeran told us he reckons people could buy 25,000 more new motors next year.

That would push the figure to 150,000 - 25,000 more than the projected total for 2015. And there will be continued growth in light commercials, he predicts. "It is great to be talking in those numbers now, considering what we were saying just a couple of years ago," he told Motors.

Another executive told us: "The figures are getting back to where they were in the 'good old days'. I hope we have learned our lessons though."

KIA's James Brooks reckons on between 140,000 and 150,000 "depending on the economic tailwinds".

And Peugeot's Colin Sheridan estimates the total for next year could stretch to 145,000, possibly more. And he is forecasting sales of around 28,000 commercials.

Jaguar/Land Rover's Gerard O'Farrell told us they are planning for a market of at least 140,000.

Around that level of purchasing was mooted earlier in the summer. Now as orders for 161 registrations begin rolling in, they are revising forecasts by the week.

Some say 145,000 will be reached with ease even at this remove.

Others say if it's 145,000 now it will be 150,000 by the end of the year when orders have accumulated for 2016. But there is always the word of caution; anything can happen. So no one is getting carried away.

However, for the week that is in it, there is added gusto to the welcome that new cars receive as they are unveiled.

There is shiny metal, extraordinary shapes, mind-boggling technology and smiling faces.

And far fewer, if any, near-naked young women draped over the bonnets. That is progress too.

This is a motor show of staggering dimensions. It is a motoring city within a city.

There are the eye-popping new designs. And the reassuringly familiar evolutions.

All the big names have massive displays here with the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen showing some ultra-futuristic models.

But not just that. The fruits of their labours in championing the cause of electrics, hybrids and plug-in hybrids were everywhere; from the stunning Porsche 'Mission E' electric-drive concept to BMW's 7-series plug-in to Mercedes' IAA (Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile) which has a drag co-efficient of 0.19 thanks to its wing mirrors receding and some extraordinary transformations to the car's aerodynamics and shape above a certain speed.

And, of course, it was impossible to turn without being confronted by the sight of yet another crossover or SUV.

Even Jaguar is getting in on the act with its F-PACE. There was a sense of crossing a threshold when sitting into this. Did anyone ever think Jaguar (or Bentley or other exotica marques for that matter) would make a Crossover?

Yet the future isn't necessarily all SUV. That's according to Opel's chief executive Karl-Thomas Neumann.

He stridently disagrees, he told us, that it will be all about SUVs in 2020, as recent research seems to suggest.

And it won't, he insisted, be all about hybrids and plug-ins (Toyota, with its new Prius just unveiled might take issue with some of that). He is convinced the least expensive option will still be the internal combustion engine.

When asked if he felt Opel was lagging behind rivals in developing hybrids and plug-ins, he said his company is investing in making engines more and more efficient.

But one thing is certain; massive change is afoot. And despite the lingering gloomy economic backdrops over stretches of Europe, there are stronger expectations that more people will get back to buying.

Indo Motoring

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