The Zeekr 001 is an electric shooting brake with assisted driving technology from Mobileye. (Sam Abuelsamid)

IAA Mobility 2023: Munich engages mobility in all forms

There were new-vehicle debuts in Munich this year, and much, much more.

New definitions of “mobility” have been floating around in the automotive industry for years. Still, the IAA Mobility 2023 exposition in Munich, Germany, made absolutely clear just how integrated and varied the mobility industry has become. IAA organizers invited climate activist Sophia Kianni to speak. A booth offered bike washes for those who rode to the show. And the public was invited to explore the many sides of mobility at dozens of free, open-air public displays and experiences around town that offered everything from test drives to concerts.

IAA’s broader definition of mobility — one that’s been embraced to some degree by automakers around the world – left plenty of room for traditional vehicle debuts, but the overall message was clear. To paraphrase “Back to the Future”’s Doc Brown, “Where we’re going, we’ll need more than cars.”

But let’s start with the vehicles. European automakers seized the opportunity to debut new vehicles, from the Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA Class – a near-production evolution of the hyper-efficient VISION EQXX tech project – to three world debuts from Opel, including the Opel Experimental concept, the Opel Corsa Electric and new Astra Sports Tourer Electric. The all-electric Experimental concept was the visual standout of the bunch. Long, clean and silvery with moving components on the exterior to optimize aerodynamics, the Experimental’s sparse interior was designed with “detox” in mind.

Opel minimized the clutter of physical components but introduced a UI that only displays “the most relevant information” at any given moment. The exterior provided a small surprise, too, since recent regulatory changes now allow for illuminated front badges. The Opel Blitz now looks more like lightning than ever before.

Local favorite BMW Group brought a few new concepts to show off, of course, but the message that unified them was how they fit into the company’s “ongoing transformation in the key action areas of electrification, digitalization and circularity.” To do that, BMW unveiled two never-seen-before concepts, the BMW Vision Neue Klasse and the BMW i7 Protection, the latter being a security-minded version of the all-electric i7. Despite hardened metals and armored glass, the i7 Protection will be efficient enough to go 100 km (62 miles) on 30 kWh of energy (WLTP provisional figures). The EV’s two-motor powertrain (one on each axle) uses many components from i7 M70 xDrive and can provide a combined output of up to 400 kW (544 hp) and a combined torque of up to 745 Nm (549 lb-ft). It’s a sign that BMW is eager to electrify any model in its lineup.

BMW’s Mini brand also revealed two new EVs, all-electric versions of the Mini Cooper and Mini Countryman, and displayed them at the brand’s Open Space site for the public instead of at the convention hall for the more B2B crowd.

It was impossible to miss the many ID. Buzz electric vans cruising the streets of Munich during the IAA as they ferried people around, another sign of Volkswagen AG’s significant presence at the show. The company promoted its “practically barrier-free” open space location and its focus on inclusion, but the automotive highlight was the debut of the new ID. GTI Concept.

The concept is an early exploration of what an electric GTI might look like – red highlights around the radiator grille? Check – as well as an attempt to convey what those letters will stand for in the future, because they technically no longer can mean “Grand Touring Injection.” Based on the ID. 2, a future ID. GTI will be more modifiable than previous ICE models because the motor and various driver controls can be “varied almost infinitely,” VW said. This kind of flexibility will allow VW to “[meet] our promise of once more focusing completely on customer needs,” Thomas Schäfer, the CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, said in a statement.

China eyes Europe
Chinese automakers were impossible to miss in Munich, at least at the Messe (convention center). BYD used the occasion to present the European premiere of the Seal U electric SUV alongside the previously seen Seal EV. Leapmotor showcased its C10 midsize SUV with few details. The Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. brought three EVs: the Polestar 3 SUV, the Zeekr 001 four-door GT – with Mobileye Supervision’s hands-off/eyes-on assisted-driving tech – and the HiPhi (pronounced “hi-fi”) Z luxury-performance sportscar.

MG showed EV models, including the MG4 Electric XPower, the MG Marvel R Electric Performance and the MG Cyberster. The Cyberster is a 14.8-foot (4.5-m) convertible sportscar that will go on sale in Europe in 2024, scissor doors and all. It is expected to be available in both single-motor RWD and dual-motor AWD variants.

Outside the show, a separate outside show
As mentioned, IAA Mobility 2023 was not confined to the convention center. The show took over so much of Munich’s downtown pedestrian area that even some non-automotive companies fleshed out the offerings. Lego gave away small building sets featuring a racecar those visiting the block-building company’s IAA exhibit and completing a series of tasks. Food trucks and beer gardens provided a festive vibe.

And some automakers took advantage of the public attention. Fisker, for one, didn’t have any official affiliation with the IAA this year, but it still hosted the European debut of the Pear CUV at its Munich store. Fisker still isn’t offering many details of its “Personal Electric Automotive Revolution” vehicle but is, pointedly, calling the EV a “mobility device rather than a conventional car.”

Despite the unavoidable presence of “mobility” and an emphasis on non-traditional public engagement, the new-model reveals kept the IAA deeply connected to its auto-show roots. Whatever forms mobility takes in the coming years, passenger vehicles obviously will remain vitally important for the world. Given the world's problems – climate change and logistics challenges, to name just two – it makes more sense than ever to look far and wide for options. A robust auto industry should accept that there’s plenty of room for new mobility ideas to complement one another. IAA Mobility 2023 provided a glimpse of how it all could work, and it was invigorating.

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