Automechanika Frankfurt Digital Plus restarts the aftermarket show engine

The full Automechanika Frankfurt experience is expected to resume in 2022. 

Photo by Mark Phillips/Aftermarket Intel

It’s been a little more than three years since the last Automechanika Frankfurt was held in Germany, and while this week’s show is definitely much smaller than attendees have seen in the past, the energy was palpable. 

I caught up with Olaf Musshoff, director of Automechanika, who said Automechanika Frankfurt Digital Plus is just a taste of what’s to come.

Jens Schueler, President Global Sales & Marketing, Schaeffler Automotive Aftermarket, who becomes CEO of the aftermarket division in 2022, speaks to a colleague about the company’s remote support offerings at Automechanika Frankfurt Digital Plus Tuesday in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo by Mark Phillips/Aftermarket Intel

“Actually, I’m really happy that we finally have something here back in place, physically and we also have [a] digital appearance, so we’re spreading internationally with a digital platform,” Musshoff said. “But it’s really, really great to have people here at the venue to have spontaneous meetings like we just had. That’s what it’s all about, meeting people, having discussions.”

“We’re looking forward to next year, where I expect and hope Automechanika Frankfurt will be back as an international show,” he said. “But this is our first step for the industry to be back in real life and I’m happy to be the host here.”

One definite advantage to a smaller show: People have more time to talk. And that is on display here in Frankfurt as old and new friends gather at the Messe Frankfurt fairgrounds for this new — and expected to be temporary — iteration of the show. The full Automechanika Frankfurt experience is expected to resume in 2022. 

Local German regulations require people to wear masks inside the show halls. Getting into the show requires one of three pieces of information: proof of vaccination, a negative test or proof of recovery from the virus. Once attendees get past those requirements, it’s business as usual. 

Well, almost.

Photo by Mark Phillips/Aftermarket Intel

Many of the exhibitor booths have been turned into mini TV and Internet broadcasting stations. The main exhibition hall features a very large stage for keynote speakers and panel discussions, all of which are streamed live during the event. A large team of technicians are working in a studio production area to bring all the visual and audio elements together before they are broadcast.

Photo by Mark Phillips/Aftermarket Intel

Most of this year’s show is taking place in one large hall, in contrast to years’ past, where the show was spread among 11 or more halls. There also is a small outdoor exhibition space.

Next door to Automechanika Frankfurt Digital Plus in a different hall, Hypermotion is a display of players in the automotive, transport and logistics industries that seek to promote mobility and energy transition. Among the companies in attendance are Uber and examples of pods used in Hyperloop, a system proposed by Tesla’s Elon Musk that uses low pressure to whisk passengers through tubes. 

Photo by Mark Phillips/Aftermarket Intel

Several European attendees and exhibitors I talked to expressed their strong desire to come to the U.S. for AAPEX and SEMA and are keeping tabs on the travel situation. Many said they have booked flights to come but are waiting to see if they are allowed to make the trip. The issue is irking the European community, because while many countries opened their doors to U.S. visitors earlier this summer, restrictions on the U.S. side never let up, keeping Europeans grounded. This is despite the fact that many European nations have higher vaccination rates and lower covid cases than the U.S. 

It remains to be seen whether or when the U.S. will change rules that currently prohibit Europeans from flying to the U.S. 

Automechanika Frankfurt Digital Plus continues through Thursday.

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