U.S. attacks change Frankfurt show

FRANKFURT -- The halls of the Frankfurt International Motor Show fell eerily silent Wednesday as automotive executives and journalists reacted to Tuesday's terrorist attacks in the United States.

The Verband der Automobilindustrie, the association of German automakers and suppliers that sponsors the Frankfurt show said Wednesday the show would open to the public as planned Thursday, albeit with increased security. The group said on Thursday, which has been declared an official day of mourning in Germany, visitors and exhibitors will observe two minutes of silence.

The VDA offered their support for America in statement posted in main hallways at the autoshow, near public transportation areas and in lobbies. The statement was written in German, but one English version was posted near the pressroom. It read:

"The VDA and the IAA exhibitors are appalled at the attack on freedom and the whole civilized world. We would like to express our deepest sympathy for the victims and their families as well as our full solidarity with the American people."

Most press conferences planned Wednesday were cancelled or rescheduled.

By common agreement, exhibitors cancelled the music which normally accompanies the presentations at major auto shows, such as Frankfurt. Many signs that were originally designated to announce the specifics of press conferences were covered with plain white pieces of paper. All that could be heard Wednesday was the occasional ringing of a cell phone and people talking.

There was a mixed sense of sympathy and outrage expressed in Frankfurt as many non-Americans consoled U.S. journalists and auto executives. "This was not only an attack on America, it was an attack on civilization," one German auto executive told Automotive News Europe managing editor Jesse Snyder.

General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen AG and DaimlerChrysler AG have all but vacated the 10-hall complex where the show is held, canceling all press conferences and cloistering executives from the media. GM went a step further, taking its executives to an undisclosed hotel outside Frankfurt.

Volvo canceled a trip by mid-level executives from Sweden to Frankfurt.

Siemens VDO, Continental AG, ZF Friedrichshafen AG, and Covisint Europe were among the suppliers canceling press conferences on Wednesday.

The Association of the Automobile Industry also cancelled Wednesday's IAA reception at Frankfurt's "Alte Opera" and the VDA has cancelled the show's opening ceremony.

Earlier Wednesday, one of the show's meeting halls, Hall 3.2 - a second-floor hall housing the exhibit of Ford Motor Co. and its subsidiaries - was evacuated for a half hour because of a bomb threat. The floor directly beneath, which houses the Nissan, Renault and Volkswagen exhibits, also was evacuated.

No bomb was found and no injuries were reported.

Frankfurt's international airport was open Wednesday morning for all flights except those to the United States.

--Automotive News staff in Frankfurt compiled this report

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