Motor show IAA: “Women like round cars – and seat heaters”

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"Women like round cars – and seat heaters"

Motor show IAA: "Women like round cars - and seat heaters"-cars

Object of desire: The trade fair, but also car fans, meet at the Frankfurt Motor Show. They usually not only find the latest car models attractive, but also the hostesses who present them

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Automotive expert Stefan Bratzel on the preferences of female buyers, his visions for the mobility of tomorrow and the Frankfurt IAA trade fair as the last reserve for real men

A.at the IAA, which opens on September 12th, electric cars and car IT are brought into the spotlight. A conversation with Stefan Bratzel, professor at the Center of Automotive Management in Bergisch-Gladbach, about industry trends.

The world: Exciting studies like the Opel Monza Concept or the Volvo Concept Coupe are presented at the IAA. The best-selling car for years, however, is the Golf, which has hardly changed on the outside. German drivers don’t like experiments?

Stefan Bratzel: Golf is a phenomenon. It’s a classless car that the CEO can show himself in just like the 18-year-old novice driver. Big changes run the risk of damaging the average car.

The world: Ex-BMW designer Chris Bangle criticized a certain mannerism of the designers, there was a lack of innovations.

Bratzel: He’s right. The trend across all vehicle classes is towards a sporty, dynamic design, something that Mercedes has implemented in the latest A-Class. It would be exciting to see whether a futuristically designed Golf would have a certain pull. Because the Golf is a lead car, other manufacturers might also dare more. But there is still no danger of being fed up with golf.

The world: The US car city Detroit is bankrupt, Opel closes its plant in Bochum, Wiesmann and Gumpert, two sports car manufacturers, recently filed for bankruptcy. Is that an indication that people are losing their interest in cars??

Bratzel: The emotional connection to the car has been lost somewhat, especially among the younger generation in the cities. We see this development not only in Germany, but also in Japan and America. This can also be seen from the fact that people get their driver’s license later and later.

The world: Is it perhaps a problem that a normal car no longer exists?

Bratzel: Revolutionary approaches are required so that the technical artefact of the car is revived and perceived as more exciting. For example connected car. It offers the chance that a car will be perceived completely differently when it communicates with other cars or drives independently. It’s wonderful to be able to turn on the autopilot and read the newspaper while driving. My favorite vision is that I will drive to a destination or let myself be driven there and the car will find a parking space on its own or join a car sharing fleet on its own classifies.

The world: Autonomous driving is one of the big topics at the IAA. But increasing automation of driving cannot lead to a further alienation of people from cars?

Bratzel: It’s a fine line. There are a growing number of car users who have no problem renting or sharing a car with anyone. The industry now makes a strong distinction between ownership on the one hand and use on the other. One of the biggest challenges for manufacturers is to learn the lessons from this differentiation. The aim is to make the many advantages of electronic driving aids palatable to customers. For older drivers, an autopilot with coupled pedestrian detection can be very helpful. You could still drive into old age because the car basically takes care of the driver.

The world: Driving fun falls by the wayside.

Bratzel: Does not have to be. Admittedly, there are still a lot of young people who absolutely want to own a car, drive it out of passion and look after it at the weekend. For this clientele, the many technical helpers in the car could be a nuisance. But nobody is forced to switch on the collision warning, they are an additional offer.

The world: Collision warning, blind spot and traffic jam assistants can quickly cost a five-figure amount as an extra if they are booked in full as part of the basic equipment. Where is the pain threshold in terms of price?

Bratzel: The traffic jam assistant is still in the introductory phase. It is up to the manufacturers to drastically reduce costs within the next five to ten years. The aim must be for these systems to be part of the standard equipment of a high-volume model like the next Golf. The development of the security-relevant features should be in the foreground. In the future, automatic emergency braking in the event of danger could even be prescribed by law, similar to ABS.

The world: Even when it comes to protection against wrong-way drivers, interventions in vehicle electronics are the horror of data protectionists and car clubs.

Bratzel: Hackers or malfunctions are a horror scenario that manufacturers have to get a grip on. The art will be to take the customer with you without patronizing him. It is important to take the first cautious steps in the right direction: the car can see things before the driver notices, for example black ice or a pedestrian. Or the hazard warning lights on cars around the next bend, indicating a source of danger. It’s also a matter of habit. The unpleasant beeping of a parking assistant is no longer annoying.

The world: What is the master plan for making the car fit for the future?

Bratzel: The car should no longer be perceived by the public as causing traffic accidents, but rather as a kind of patron saint or watchdog: it watches out for other road users. The term automobile is given positive connotations again. The same applies to the drive: the car must be perceived as a system with which I do not pollute the air, but purify it. You have to install filter systems in Shanghai or Beijing so that cleaner air comes out at the back than is sucked in at the back. One of the positive qualities can also be that the car earns money when I share it with someone, for example.

The world: An important group of buyers left behind by the industry are women. There is a sports car with over 1000 hp, a cheap car for well under 10,000 euros. Why is there no purely women‘s car?

Bratzel: It is true that the industry must pay more attention to purchasing-relevant factors for women. Women as a group of buyers are becoming increasingly important. I dare to doubt whether it has to be a women’s car that was specially designed for women. After all, there is no such thing as a pensioner’s car.

The world: Women drive small cars and men big ones?

Bratzel: Mini is, for example, a classic women‘s brand. Round vehicle shapes are preferred by women. But they also like to drive SUVs because the feeling of security is greater in them. While men tend to make their purchase decision emotionally, comparing dozen tests in specialist magazines, studying engine data and constantly looking for reasons to justify buying their dream car, women are more rational. For them, the price-performance ratio and the issue of environmental compatibility play a major role. And when it comes to extras, heated seats are very popular.

The world: At the auto show, hostesses will again pose provocatively next to the cars while the men film and passionately discuss engines and aerodynamics. What does that say about how Germans feel about cars?

Bratzel: Auto shows like the IAA are something like the last reserve for real men, a protected space for mobility dreams, attack and escape vehicles. Since he can still be a hunter undisturbed, nothing has changed in principle. Sex sells. And it would be a warning sign for the industry if it were no longer that way and if it were only about functionality.

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