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Much ado about the third press day at the IAA

Frankfurt. The addition of a third press day on Monday, September 12, at the 61st International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt is running into protests from exhibitors. The reason for all the pre-show aggravation lies with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's busy schedule.

The German leader is due to speak before the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday, September 15, and, as a result, can't open the show as planned.

So the organizer, the German Association of the Automobile Industry (VDA), made new arrangements: Schroeder is now scheduled to make his appearance on the first regular press day, Tuesday, September 13.

According to a VDA source, VW put pressure on the VDA to find a compromise date and time. This was to give Schroeder a political platform before the planned Bundestag (lower house of the German parliament) election on September 18. VW is close to Schroeder, the so-called "auto chancellor."

But a VW source denied this, saying, "That is absolute nonsense."

Said a Volkswagen spokesperson: "We have fought tooth and nail against this press day."

Extra costs

To keep automakers and suppliers from getting overshadowed by Schroeder's appearance at the show on Tuesday, September 13, the association decided to introduce a limited press day on Monday, September 12.

According to current planning, a dozen press conferences are to take place on that day while other exhibitors are still working away on their stands.

"For us, advancing the schedule means extremely high additional expenditures," said the VW spokesman.

A Fiat source agreed. "The earlier press day leads to additional charges."

The association's decision especially irked automakers outside Germany. Fiat has lodged a protest with the group.

The Italian company criticized the fact that the extra press day hasn't led to a staggered time schedule. Instead, events are overlapping on Tuesday, the first regular press day.

As a result, Porsche and Mazda are holding their press conference at 10 a.m, the same time Fiat's Alfa Romeo is holding its own event.

"We have switched times for Fiat and Lancia to get a open window for the Punto's world premier, at least," a Fiat source said.

The event's extension brought complaints from Renault. "We see no need for another day," a Renault spokesperson said. The company will be building its stand until 6 p.m. on September 12, and its partner Nissan is also under time pressure.

Mitsubishi, Webasto hit

Other manufactures are more relaxed about the schedule. "The last big appearance for the chancellor before the vote will bring media attention like never before," said Richard Gaul, BMW manager for communication and policy.

Show planners for major German carmakers will have to hustle to get their press conferences up and running on Monday, but they won't be affected by noise from neighbors still constructing their stands.

BMW has its own "Agora" pavilion, Mercedes resides in the festival hall, and VW occupies a whole floor in Hall 3.0.

The situation is worse for Mitsubishi in Hall 5 and supplier Webasto in Hall 8. They also plan to make their presentations on Monday.

Hammering and drilling will resound through their halls during the first press day. "We are placing our hopes on the solidarity of our neighbors," a Webasto spokesperson said.

So the media representatives don't trip over cables or take pictures prematurely, they will be guided from one event to another, a VDA spokesman said.

"Our security staff will act as school guides."

In an official document on "organizational handling of the limited press day," the association warns: "The journalists will be made aware that access to halls where there are no press conferences permitted."

But there's no guarantee that people won't get in through "gates and such," a source said.

Tags: Automakers

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