Flying into Frankfurt, one might not know what to expect. At the home of the IAA, the annual International Motor Show, the grandest of buildings was to play host to the largest of occasions on the automotive calendar and, in particular, a landmark occasion for Mercedes-Benz. But scale aside, should someone expect this to be an occasion of denial or defiance? A moment to embrace the immense change that will have inevitable impact on the industry, or a refusal to accept it? If I didn’t know then, I certainly do now: this convention was not about convention.
As visitors trickled and ebbed their way in on day one, our early-morning lack of alertness was immediately put into shape. A 9am firing up of the sound system with DJ on main stage saw a 40-person dance troop popping and locking, trance chords laying hold to the Festhalle’s century-old sweeping architecture, and an audience in raptures. This was not just an opening ceremony, this was a statement of intent; not just for the days ahead but for the brand as a whole. This inaugural event was an indicator of a new platform; not one of a classic car brand, but instead this was the moment that Mercedes-Benz declared a new sense of self. We are not who you think we are, it implicitly sung. Not anymore, it echoed. No longer contained by the realm of car, but instead, perhaps, a tech brand to contend with any other.
The last decade has seen techites fawning over releases of dynamic, culture-shaping software, but in the case of its tangible twin it has been, for the most part, iterative-step releases of hardware. Phones with tentative improvements on the last, and Moore’s law powered productions of the inevitable. So whilst the zeitgeist focuses on the What’s new from the Googles and Apples of the World, there is perhaps an emergence of other contenders to consider. And Mercedes-Benz could certainly claim to be a part of that pack. Because here lies a new beast: Mercedes-Benz 2.0. This is lifestyle hardware of the highest calibre, and greatest scale. This isn’t mere pocket size gadgetry (for all its virtues) but urban-size beasts to navigate the World with; drone equipped vans, streamlined coupes, cars built for cities and cities designed for movement of all orders. A reinvented sense of purpose, yet a retained classic spirit.
How do we get there and where do we start are the natural questions; right to ask and hard to answer. But to know where we are going and why is the first critical step. And this question, so often overlooked, was resoundingly answered by Mercedes here. So whilst you might fly into Frankfurt not knowing the answer, and indeed fly out not knowing the precise answer either, at least now we know the questions. And isn’t that a little exciting?