BMW eclipses car show rivals with three-level indoor test track

Mon Sep 9, 2013 3:09am EDT
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By Andreas Cremer

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote) has built a 300-meter, three-level indoor test track at this year's Frankfurt motor show - all to outshine German arch-rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz as it battles to stay in pole position in the world's luxury car market.

Incorporated into BMW's 10,000-square meter exhibition space, the figure of eight-shaped track will give visitors the chance to test drive two dozen vehicles, including BMW's first all-electric car, the 34,950-euro ($46,000) i3 hatchback.

"We're keen to live up to our leadership claim in every possible respect," Steven Althaus, BMW branding chief told Reuters. "That central idea is reflected through our show stand" which took two months to build.

German premium carmakers traditionally compete against one another for the most impressive display during the Frankfurt show, Europe's biggest, but BMW is particularly hard-pressed to turn heads this year as its sales lead over Audi has been melting away.

Competition among the big three has intensified since Mercedes (DAIGn.DE: Quote) was overtaken by Audi (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) in 2011 as the runner-up in the luxury car market by sales.

Both want to replace BMW in the top spot by the end of the decade and are also determined to make a splash in Frankfurt.

Audi has pledged "to turn the show upside down" by having imitations of skyscrapers and city districts sprout from the ceiling of its partly mirrored exhibition pavilion, drawing attention to the challenges of urban mobility, the brand's event marketing chief, Bernhard Neumann, told Reuters.

Mercedes, meanwhile, has a 250-metre track outside the Festhalle, the century-old venue for the show which was inaugurated by German Emperor Wilhelm II and has space for 13,500 people.   Continued...

The overview of BMW area at the biennial Frankfurt motor show is seen in an undated computer rendered handout picture obtained by Reuters on September 8, 2013. BMW has spent millions of euros on an indoor test track at the Frankfurt car show all to outshine rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz as the battle among the top three luxury automakers is heating up. REUTERS/BMW GROUP/Handout via Reuters