International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt am Main

IAA in times of social change: When the traffic transition steals the show from the leading trade fair

It was foreseeable that vehicles that did not comply with climate targets or nitrogen oxide limits would one day no longer be saleable . Nevertheless, automobile manufacturers have been reluctant to develop sustainable vehicle concepts that are suitable for the transition. Their belated innovations, which they will present at the IAA in Frankfurt, can hardly distract from the fact that in autumn 2019 the focus will no longer be on the car itself, but on a social novelty: the desire of broad sections of the population for a traffic transition and the willingness of many people to switch to alternative means of transport.

| Pressrelease

Dr. Konrad Götz, mobility expert at the ISOE - Institute for Social-Ecological Research, sees the IAA 2019 in a completely changed social environment compared to all previous leading trade fairs of the automotive industry. "Demonstrations on the occasion of an IAA are of course not a novelty", says the sociologist with a view to the protests  announced for the 14th of September, at which several thousand participants are expected in Frankfurt, "but the determination with which a car-focussed transport policy is now being rejected and a priority of other means of transport over the car is being demanded shows that the mobility culture is undergoing change and that the traffic transitions has long since begun. In a way, this steals the show from the leading trade fair this year".

The increasing criticism toward oversized SUVs and the great success of electric two-wheelers go hand in hand with a gradual sensitization for a sensible redistribution of public space in the city. Questions concerning the quality of life and spatial quality come to the fore. "Cities are suffering from an increasingly aggressive competition for scarce traffic space," observes lifestyle researcher Götz. "This becomes obvious from the fact that noise, bad air and districts in which no parking space is left have now become a permanent issue and more and more people are calling for measures to counteract it. Changes in the behavior of road users are, however, lagging behind. "Behavior Change is an important component for the success of the traffic transition. A consistent change in behavior favoring public transport, cycling, and light electric mobility will immediately lead to a drop in demand for climate-damaging large-volume vehicles".

Mobility of the future needs a combination of all means of transport 

Leaving common everyday automotive routines behind is a prerequisite for the transformation into a more sustainable development - initiated not least by the voices of the younger generation. Initially ridiculed, it is now the merit of the "Fridays for Future" movement to point out uncomfortable interconnections, says Konrad Götz. "One insight is more and more gaining ground: With their current lifestyles and mobility styles, people are not harming the environment in an abstract way, but are directly harming themselves. This creates a legitimation problem for politicians and companies and both must now provide solutions," says Konrad Götz. The spiral of ever heavier vehicles, which require ever more horsepower for absurd top speeds, will continue at this IAA. But there are clear signs that the mass market is going in a different direction. 

"Up to now, mobility has primarily meant automobility. But in future, flexibility will no longer be defined by one's own car," explains Götz. For the mobility of the future, all environmentally friendly forms of transportation, including walking and cycling, will be combined. "Mobility does not mean driving around as much as possible, but being mobile in order to meet needs. The mobility researcher is convinced that this mobility must be guaranteed for everyone, including the non-privileged and the rural population. "The necessary strategies and concepts for the traffic transition have already been in place for many years.” 

Strategy for the change in traffic patterns

Dr. Jutta Deffner, head of mobility research at ISOE, is working on such concepts. In her opinion, the key to the success of an environmentally compatible traffic transition is to cleverly combine the existing building blocks for this upcoming change: "It is a matter of combining the various forms of transport and requirements with a clever strategy," says the city planner. The strategic corner stones  developed by ISOE in several studies show how decision-makers can develop the right mix for the mobility needs of the local population and economy in their city, municipality or region. This includes multi-optional mobility offers, regions that offer short distances and an improvement in the urban quality of life.

The strategically important components should not be viewed in isolation, but are mutually dependent and mutually supportive. "The decisive factor for the success of the traffic transition is that political decision-makers and administrations do not simply leave mobility and traffic to the market, but play a stronger controlling and shaping role at all levels," says Jutta Deffner.

Further information (in German only)

Nachhaltige Mobilitätskultur in Hessen gestalten. Konzept für eine Mobilitätsstrategie   

Neue Wege in die Verkehrswende. Impulse für Kommunikationskampagnen