Concept for IAA 2021 announced

Phil Curry | 01 Jul 2020

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Phil Curry

Editor Daily Brief

Phil Curry, Autovista24 Editor, is a seasoned automotive journalist, always keen to seek out and explain the latest industry developments

Der Marienplatz in München mit Touristen

01 July 2020

The concept for the 2021 Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA) has been unveiled, with the show billed as a ‘triad’ featuring three different zones set around its new Munich location.

For next year, organisers want to focus the IAA around future mobility, more so than the traditional vehicle show. The event will feature a ‘Summit’ section on trade show grounds, while the ‘Open Space’ will turn Munich’s inner-city locations into interaction forums on future mobility concepts  and stages showcasing technologies as experiences.

These two areas will be connected by the third concept, the ‘Blue Lane’, a test track where visitors can trial future mobility concepts. The event will also become more compact, with a six-day schedule, rather than 10 as seen in recent years.

‘Individual mobility is a basic human need, and satisfying it in all its facets is an ever-growing challenge for our society, which business and policy-makers have to address,’ announced Hildegard Müller, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), during the IAA concept release. ‘The new IAA will point up solutions for connecting these mobility demands in ways that are efficient, economical, and socially and environmentally acceptable.’

Three areas

The ‘Summit’ on Munich’s trade show grounds is positioned as the meeting place for professionals and the venue for brand and product presentations. It will focus on innovations, rather than complete product ranges, along with the unveiling of new products.

Meanwhile, the ‘Open Space’ will appeal to the general public, with prominent locations becoming venues for a ‘city-wide dialogue on visions, innovations and sustainable mobility solutions for the future,’ according to the organisers.

Visitors will be able to try out and experience new forms of mobility and low-emission powertrain technologies for themselves as part of a pilot project on the connecting ‘Blue Lane’. This will integrate car traffic and local public transport to produce the experience of a connected multimodal route.

Changing times

The new concept, together with the new location, is an effort to revitalise the IAA following a dramatic drop in visitor numbers over the last two events. Just 560,000 people attended the event in 2019, down from 810,000 that walked the halls two years prior, and the 932,000 visitors, the highest attendance for the event in eight years, in 2015.

The days of ‘traditional’ motor shows, with visitors looking at static displays in large halls, is now a thing of the past. While new concepts and launches once drew in crowds, today’s digital age allows carmakers a more direct route to market, meaning some big names have pulled out of the European show circuit in recent years. Also, an increase in mobility services, a drop in vehicle ownership and, in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, economic issues, have all transpired to turn manufacturer and visitor attendance from a must, into a maybe.

Therefore, some of the biggest events on the calendar are looking to introduce new themes, focus on technology and mobility alongside stand displays, and include interactive elements to engage with the public. The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit was set to relaunch this year, taking in more of the city and featuring a festival atmosphere, while last year’s Tokyo show saw attendance rocket with the inclusion of interactive elements and a focus on smart cities, amongst other things.

Meanwhile, following the cancellation of the Geneva International Motor Show for 2021 in the wake of COVID-19, and the planned sale of the event to Palexpo SA, the new organisers will have time to consider the future of the Swiss event and how to adapt it for the future.


Therefore, the IAA needed to embrace change to ensure its survival, and a fresh start in a new city, together with interactive zones and the opportunity to expand beyond the exhibition hall grounds offers a chance to do just that.

‘The new IAA in Munich will have a totally novel event concept. Content, exhibits, experiences and discussions will be accessible to everyone – that is, residents of Munich and guests from all over the world,’ said Klaus Dittrich, chairman and CEO of Messe München, describing the show of the future. ‘Repositioning the IAA is one of the most challenging tasks in the international trade show business and a unique opportunity for Munich.’

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