Fast-changing Frankfurt

Douglas A. Bolduc is managing editor at Automotive News Europe.
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How things have changed. At the 2015 Frankfurt auto show, Martin Winterkorn was the unchallenged CEO of Volkswagen Group and General Motors was boldly predicting that its chronic money-loser Opel was on the verge of finally being profitable.

Neither Winterkorn nor GM will be in the Frankfurt spotlight this year.

Today, Winterkorn’s name only comes up in relation to ongoing litigation related to his former employer’s diesel-emissions cheating scandal. It’s ironic that Winterkorn used his final Frankfurt auto show to boldly tout VW’s ambitious electric car plans.

VW will continue that theme at Frankfurt this year by highlighting a further development of its I.D. Crozz full-electric SUV.

While VW tries to move on from the diesel debacle, it’s likely some environmental group will use the show to throw another punch at the world’s largest automaker to ensure no one forgets that this month marks the two-year anniversary of its image-altering scandal.

GM bosses used the 2015 Frankfurt show to underline their expectation that its German subsidiary Opel and its British sister brand, Vaxuhall, would return to the black by 2016.

While the term Brexit was coined in 2012, it wasn’t a regular part of the automotive lexicon in 2015. Today, we’re reminded daily about Britain’s decision to quit the European Union. That shock vote doomed Opel/Vauxhall’s profit plans.

Opel will be at this year’s Frankfurt show, but Neumann and GM are gone, replaced by new Opel CEO Michael Lohscheller, who leads an Opel that is now part of PSA Group, While his predecessors answered to GM bosses in Detroit, Lohscheller is under the watchful eye of PSA CEO Carlos Tavares in Paris.

Which executives, brands and topics will be ancient history by the time the 2019 Frankfurt auto show opens?

The odds are looking good that Fiat Chrysler won’t look the same as it does today, that diesels will be an afterthought and that electrified models will be everywhere.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at

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