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Q&A With Messe Frankfurt’s Michael Johannes

The brand manager for Automechanika provides some additional information on future plans for the exhibition.

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On May 6, AMN reported that Messe Frankfurt and its customers, partners and supporting associations have agreed to postpone this year’s Automechanika Frankfurt event that was originally scheduled to take place Sept. 8-12, 2020. Following the announcement, Michael Johannes, brand manager Automechanika, Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH, has provided some additional information on future plans for the exhibition.

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You just announced that Automechanika Frankfurt will be postponed to 2021. What feedback did you have from your partners and exhibitors?

The majority of our exhibitors are strongly in favor of this move. Due to local and global measures implemented to restrict the spread of COVID-19, it was necessary to postpone the flagship fair until September 2021. Even though the Automechanika team has spent the past 18 months working all-out to get ready for the event, it simply would not have been possible for many of the exhibitors and visitors from over 180 countries to take part in the event under the conditions currently prevailing or those expected at that time. All the leading automotive aftermarket associations supported us in this decision, particularly our advisory council, with whom we had yet another in-depth discussion just a few days ago. Our top priority is ensuring the health and safety of everyone – exhibitors and visitors alike – taking part in the event.

How have exhibitors responded to your decision to postpone the fair? 

All the feedback has been positive – exhibitors are particularly pleased that they now have planning certainty. Many exhibitors have to be extremely careful about their liquidity right now and have placed staff on short-time work – eliminating the trade fair as a cost-factor for this year has helped a lot of them. The exhibitors also agree that it was the right decision to postpone the trade fair for a year and then resume holding the event once every two years.

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Would it be possible for a trade fair like Automechanika to take place on a digital platform in future?

We do not believe there is anything that can replace face-to-face business encounters. Nor is this simply our opinion as trade fair organizers. In discussions over these past few weeks, industry representatives have once again made it clear just how important an international flagship fair like Automechanika is. It is the most popular international gathering for the automotive industry, an event taking place every two years that everyone looks forward to. Every business contact is prepared for this occasion and travels here with a list of their own appointments and business partners. Automechanika offers personal interaction with lots of familiar faces, a place where people can shake hands in person – people really care about that. As one industry representative put it: “Skyping is something we can do ourselves, and we’re already doing that on a regular basis.” Naturally Automechanika can be supplemented with digital offerings, and that is already happening. This year, for instance, we intend to go live with a networking tool as part of our event app that allows trade fair participants to network with one another.

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Will the postponement result in any changes to the trade fair’s concept or format in 2021? 

The wheel keeps turning, and things continue to develop at a dynamic pace. As a result, I would not be at all surprised by the inclusion of new technologies or services that we haven’t even thought about yet. But naturally our first order of business will be to work closely with all the exhibitors who were eager to showcase their products this year and help them get ready for 2021. In addition to a major focus on parts and the workshop business, we will be featuring pioneering technologies, mobility services, vehicle customization, washing and detailing, not to mention the classic car business.

What about the other Automechanika fairs around the globe – will they take place this year? 

We are in close contact with the show directors regarding the current situation due to the corona pandemic. We are analyzing and evaluating the regulations of the local government and the health authorities to develop scenarios under which the shows might take place. We are also hoping that our international business, especially in Asia, can restart in the last quarter of this year and that we can at least hold a couple of regional shows such as Automechanika Ho Chi Minh City in the meantime. 

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