IAA: Future Now


Anyone who wants to really experience the future of the automobile industry needs to visit the supplier stands at the IAA in Frankfurt. Klaus Zehender, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Purchasing & Supplier Quality made the trip. He describes his experiences exclusively here.

There is a lot of ground to cover at the IAA. That is why I put on a pair of comfortable shoes and started walking. To the stands of the suppliers. Around 400 in total. That’s quite a lot if you ask me. Visiting them all is impossible, so I selected a few of our partners in advance and set off on a long march around the trade fair halls. I was quite relieved to take advantage of the conveyors in the connecting walkways.

IAA: Dr. Klaus Zehender, Mercedes-Benz Procurement & Supplier Quality
Dr. Klaus Zehender (right): The automotive future, by foot.

One thing in particular was of interest to me at the IAA: How are the suppliers preparing for CASE? These are our four future topics (Connectivity, Autonomous driving, Shared Services and E-Mobility). One immediate positive realization was that “conventional” suppliers are moving into new fields of business. The family run business Kirchhoff Automotive uses its know-how from the outside world for electric vehicles. The lightweight construction specialist develops housings for high-voltage batteries. The combination of steel and aluminum is crash-proof and waterproof. This is the kind of thing we need for our EQs. Very interesting.

Kirchhoff: Lightweight construction for electric vehicles.

The Dr. Schneider Unternehmensgruppe is also looking at the wider picture. Currently these ventilation systems specialists are looking closely at the topic of “Sharing“. What does it look like if the same car is in the hands of several people on any given day? Dr. Schneider is working on new interfaces for controls. These foils are particularly useful from a hygiene point of view. And they can heal themselves. Small scratches dissatisfy on their own. Just like our skin.

Dr. Schneider: Self-healing surfaces, small scrapes disappear on their own.

Access is only granted to selected visitors at Brose. Behind closed doors I am granted a glimpse of the future. Here it is once again clear that CASE is also having an innovative effect on traditional suppliers and their traditional components. Such as the car door, for example. Opening and closing not with the usual key but electronically using an app and with gesture control. And the door also recognizes approaching cyclists, opening only once they have cycled past.

IAA: Dr. Klaus Zehender at the stand of supplier Brose.
Brose: Car doors are getting lighter and more intelligent.

One steering wheel, two seats at the front and a bench seat at the back for three passengers. We have to completely change the way we think in this respect. Particularly when it comes to autonomous driving. At Yanfeng I was shown how vehicle interiors could look in a few years. The strict seating arrangement will become a thing of the past. The car will evolve into the next living space. Depending on the selected interior mode, passengers will either be able to travel, work or relax. Taking the load off my feet for a few minutes was quite pleasant as well.

IAA: Dr. Klaus Zehender visiting supplier Yanfeng
Yanfeng: New thoughts on interior.

Another thing that CASE entails are of course new partners. Manufacturers in the field of consumer electronics. Such as LG. Displays, not rectangular like a meat platter, but in all possible shapes and sizes. Cameras to observe the driver. Battery cells with the highest possible concentration of energy. “No pictures please” stood next to a lot of exhibits in the area, which could only be accessed by selected visitors to the trade fair. Understandable, because IAA spies should not experience too much of the future.

LG: A vision of the cockpit of the future.

What have I learned from the IAA? The suppliers know CASE. They have to prove if they are also really able to apply it. Particularly the new players from the consumer sector. Their components also have to be crash-proof and not only work at room temperature, but also in the icy winters of Alaska or the humid summer heat of Beijing. By the way, on my travels I also discovered a vehicle that has been driving itself for quite some time now: Lightning McQueen, the main protagonist from the Disney movie Cars:

Lightning McQueen has been doing this for quite some time: Driving without a driver.