Event Coverage: Essen Motor Show

As international auto shows go, the Essen Motor Show most closely resembles the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Like SEMA, Essen’s primary focus is customization and the aftermarket with a strong but incomplete presence by car manufacturers. Unlike SEMA though, Essen is not a closed trade show but rather a public exhibition with over 400,000 auto enthusiasts and owners attending in droves to see what is on display and even walk out of the show with parts, since several halls are as much market and swap meet as they are display areas.

While comparisons between SEMA and Essen can certainly be drawn, there really is no equivalent to Essen in the USA. The Essen show, held in the northwestern German town by the same name, has been operating since 1968, and event organizers hold to a concept that divides the show into four main categories: Automobiles, Tuning, Oldtimers and Classic Cars. As an auto enthusiast, it’s worth a look. As a European car enthusiast, it’s even more important because this show represents who’s who in the European aftermarket.

Most of the Volkswagen Group was officially represented at Essen. Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, Skoda and Lamborghini all maintain stands quite near each other in the center of Hall 3.

For Volkswagen, news at the show centered around the launch of the CrossPolo and Golf Speed concepts. That said, the new Touareg race vehicle, Golf R32, Polo GTI and Golf GTI drew plenty of attention in their own right.

Over at Audi, there was a fairly significant lineup of new models or variants. Most of the cars on display highlight what Audi’s own customization arm quattro GmbH builds. The company’s whole range was shown in either S-line trim or with some individualization options. It shows the range of what Audi can do in-house.

In particular, an RS 4 and new A4 TFSI with the more powerful programming from the limited run A4 DTM Edition both featured a new titanium-look package, complete with dark chrome grille surrounds, titanium finish exhaust tips, anthracite wheels, chrome delete around the windows and, in the case of the A4 Avant shown, chrome delete at the rear tailgate.

Additional new model debuts featured at Essen within the Audi stand included the aforementioned A4 TFSI, the updated B7 S4 Cabriolet and Q7 S-line.

Highlights at Skoda included their latest Octavia RS Combi and Fabia WRC racecar. However, a new accessory body kit for the Octavia was the only totally new product we found.

Spanish sister SEAT had several new things to show, from a great-looking Leon body kit and debut of the production Altea FR, to several racecars that included the latest Leon Supercopa formula racer and a previous generation race-spec Leon.

Several accessory display cars were also on hand. We’ve seen the A3 Sportback with body kit and wheels before, but a Q7 on hand showed a complete matte body kit, satin aluminum step bars and matching satin aluminum bumper inserts at both front and rear, giving Audi’s SUV a decidedly different appearance.

Tech Art, Abt Sportsline, Hartge, Heico Sportiv are just a few in the range of German tuning houses that make a showing. OEMs like Continental Tires, Eibach, KW and H&R all turn out as well.

Volkswagen group cars were littered throughout the tuner area. Abt had their 2.7T-powered Audi A4 Avant, a modified GTI, Passat and new Jetta all in their area, while we spotted the several turbogcharged R32s, a Nothelle Audi A6, an Audi A4 Cabriolet with the new Caractere body kit that includes the massive grille of the A8 W12.

Remember the blisteringly fast Audi-powered Gumpert Apollo featured several months back? A white example was displayed at Eibach, while fellow Audi-powered specialty car manufacturer Spyker had their C8 racecar that ran at Le Mans and some events in the LMES on display elsewhere in the show.

Germans have a strong love affair with Lamborghinis, so it was no surprise that the Italian company had a strong presence at the show. In addition to its own stand with open-top versions of both Murcielago and Gallardo, tuned Gallardos were seemingly everywhere at the show. Particularly stunning was a Gallardo complete with widebody kit from tuner IMSA.

From the displays of industry exhibitors, ranges hall after hall of vendor with more aftermarket taillights, grilles, body kits and subwoofer boxes than you can shake a forest of sticks at. If new parts aren’t your bag, the halls are also populated by vendors for used vintage parts, scale model cars, automotive books and more.

We found a few new parts we hadn’t seen before. Lighting manufacturer In.Pro had a new clear/red LED taillight for the current-generation 3-door A3 and projector-style aero light for the second-generation Golf or Jetta. Like-minded Hella showcased several new LED taillight options for the fifth generation Golf and GTI.

If historical cars are of more interest to you than tuned showcars, there’s still something to see. Whole halls are dedicated to historically significant cars and racecars as well as upscale vintage cars offered for sale. On the edge of the vintage area, we found a mean-looking NSU TTS racecar in the Revell stand, and for sale were numerous Lamborghinis, from the Countache and Diablo to several Espadas.

Vintage modified Volkswagens were quite common, from an A1 Caddy and Beetle hot rod to a Zender widebody second-generation Scirocco and a rare convertible converted first-generation Scirocco.

Not far from the stunning Auto Union Type C Grand Prix racecar could also be spotted last year’s Pebble Beach-winning Horch Cabriolet. American-owned, the car must have been shipped over for its German debut.

In total, 570 exhibitors populated the Messe at Essen this year, offering several days worth of area to investigate, picking up giveaways like key chains and posters along the way, even if you’re not ready to drop some Euros on parts.

Motorsport is important to the German public, so it’s no surprise that motorsport represents a big part of the showing at this event. Racecar drivers and team members commonly interact with the crowd, while vintage and modern racecars are seemingly everywhere, from the newest F1, Sportscar , Rally, Touring and DTM racers to vintage Grand Prix cars like the 1930’s silver arrows from Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz.

In addition to the Auto Union Type C Grand Prix car in the vintage display that sat nearby an RS 4 safety car, Audi displayed one of the A4 DTM racecars with S-line livery next to this year’s #3 Le Mans-winning R8. The two other liveries of A4 DTM could also be found elsewhere in the show, one at Abt, another at the DTM’s own stand and even one of the older TT DTM racecars in Red Bull livery elsewhere in the show. For those liking Avants, we also spotted a full race-spec B5 RS 4 Avant not far from the Audi display.

In the meantime, show-goers walk wide-eyed through no less than 12 show halls, some of which are two floors. If you make the trip, plan several days of attendance. If you’re in the industry, try for their press/industry day as it’s much less crowded. Sadly, this day normally falls on or very close to the American holiday of Thanksgiving. However, the show runs for about a week and a half, so if you’re ready to brave the crowds and cold weather of Northern Germany in late November or early December, this show may be for you.

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