NTEA delegation travels to IAA show in Germany

By Mike Kastner, NTEA managing director

This article was published in the December 2016 edition of NTEA News.

Innovation. Efficiency. Solutions. Those were the common threads witnessed by NTEA members attending IAA Commercial Vehicles 2016 International Motor Show. Held in Hannover, Germany, every other year, it is the largest truck exhibition in the world.

NTEA led a 16-person delegation of work truck industry executives to the 2016 show in late September — providing a unique opportunity to view a large portion of the global commercial vehicle industry in one place.

Members attending IAA gained unique insights into the European commercial vehicle market along with previews of products likely to appear in North America.

The exhibition lasted nine days and attracted nearly 250,000 people to see more than 2,000 exhibiting companies from 50 countries. The fairgrounds on which IAA is held have more than five million square feet of covered indoor room, more than 600,000 square feet of open-air space, 27 halls and pavilions, and a convention center. It is the largest exhibition ground in the world.

IAA displays include heavy-duty trucks and truck-tractors, light commercial vehicles, buses, specialty work trucks, trailers, truck bodies, interior fixtures, equipment, parts and accessories.

NTEA’s delegation began the trip outside of Munich in Zusmarshausen, Germany, where they toured facilities of Sortimo International GmbH, a leading manufacturer of van racking systems and mobile transport solutions. Delegates met with Sortimo executives and learned how they bring customer needs into production.

NTEA’s IAA delegation joined executives from Sortimo International to tour their headquarters and production facilities in Zusmarshausen, Germany.

Once in Hannover, the group attended the IAA exhibition to see what various truck OEMs are planning for the near future. Prevalent themes of the show were sustainability, alternative drives and vehicle connectivity. Not surprisingly, van products were abundant. There was a strong focus on lightweighting as well, with composites, aluminum and structural panels present in all levels of product from chassis to toolboxes.

Based on what NTEA’s delegation witnessed at IAA, OEMs are clearly viewing telematics as a vital part of customers’ business — from large fleets to single-vehicle owners. Multiple OEMs offered connectivity packages for the commercial truck market, with some linking directly to service providers for scheduling maintenance appointments.

Mercedes-Benz introduced the Urban eTruck, stating it is “moving beyond hardware by offering comprehensive mobility concepts. We add intelligent and connected services and solutions to our portfolio.”

Volkswagen introduced its e-Crafter electric van concept and the new Crafter, named 2017 International Van of the Year. In addition to these products, VW focused on alternative drives and connected commercial vehicles.

According to the company, “…purely electric drives obviously have their place in our development strategy, just as much as fuel cells, hybrid drives, biodiesel and gas. We cannot dictate to customers what they should use, but we will be offering them exactly the solution that is ideal for their purpose and also generates a commercial advantage.”

At the show, the NTEA delegation met with officials in charge of commercial vehicle conversions for Opel and reviewed their vehicles for commercial upfitting. After speaking with Opel, Tim Campbell, managing director at TruckWorld TV, gave the group an extensive guided tour of the show’s highlights. (Read Tim Campbell’s coverage of IAA innovation from the November issue of NTEA News at ntea.com/globalopportunities).

While in Hannover, delegates toured Volkswagen’s Commercial Vehicles headquarters and assembly plant. The Hannover operation is equipped with state-of-the-art presses and robotics, building both the VW Transporter and Amarok pickup.

After multiple days in Hannover, the group traveled to the North Sea and saw port facilities in Bremerhaven. The port of Bremerhaven is one of the largest container ports in Europe with more than 2 million vehicles imported or exported every year — more than any other European city.