The Frankfurt Motor Show is in full swing right now. One of the world's biggest shows, it is dominated by the German giants of Audi, BMW, VW, Porsche and Mercedes, and is always a good signifier of future industry trends.
This year, numerous trends are in evidence by the show's exhibitors, featuring strongly on the hundreds of cars and concepts on display. RAC Motoring visited the show on its opening day to see all the new cars first-hand. Here, we round up the most widely-seen concepts, to see how these trends could shape the cars of tomorrow.
Read on to find out how your future road car could look...
Electric cars continue to thrive. Most car makers are now agreed the drivetrain of the future will be electrically-driven, with electricity supplied by batteries or an onboard fuel cell. Combustion engines will be here for a long time but, ultimately, it seems we will eventually end up driving cars powered by electric motors.
Every motor show has its colour trends: at Frankfurt 2011, it is white. The colour has made a comeback in recent years, but really looks to have cemented its popularity in 2011. It is particularly popular on 'eco' versions, perhaps because of its clean and pure look: as these cars are growing in number, expect the return of white to continue too.
New construction methods
The BMW i3 and i8 are built in a new way, with a carbon fibre 'life module' top half sitting on top of a strong metal 'drive module' bottom half. This is flexible and lightweight, providing the flexibility necessary for modern electric cars. Many other cars makers will show new flexible construction methods in coming years too – with a heavy focus on composite materials such as reinforced plastics and carbon fibre.
Audi, Volkswagen and Vauxhall all showed a new breed of two-seat electric-only city car. These tiny models are like modern green versions of the famous 'Bond Bug' and join the Renault Twizy that's already on sale in offering a taste of future zero tailpipe emissions city centre motoring.
The mid-sized saloon is making a return. Both SEAT and Skoda showed saloon concept cars, with Skoda in particular aiming it at the thriving Chinese car market. China prefers three-box saloons to more European-style hatchbacks, so the trend for saloon cars is expected to influence the design of future European models.
Despite a strong focus on green cars, high-performance supercars featured strongly at Frankfurt: the Lamborghini Sesto Elemento and Ferrari 458 Spider were highlights. Several makers also showed 'green' performance cars, such as the extended range electric vehicle BMW i8 and petrol-electric hybrid Jaguar C-X16.
Bespoke styling editions
For some rich buyers, a standard car is not enough. To meet this growing demand for bespoke editions, many specialist firms are offering styling enhancements for premium cars such as the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover. The latest firm to do this is a new British start-up called Eterniti: the London company showed its Porsche Cayenne-based Hemera at Frankfurt.
One way to quickly make today's cars more fuel-efficient is to fit a smaller engine. Modern engine developments, including turbo technology, mean these units are as fast as the older, larger motors they replace, but a lot more fuel efficient. At the Frankfurt show, the Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost was the most eye-opening example. It is as powerful as the old 1.6, but returns around 10mpg more per gallon.
Cars built in the UK were strongly represented at Frankfurt. Jaguar showed a revised 2012 range of models, Toyota displayed a big facelift for the Avensis and specialist firm Lotus demonstrated its improved range of car (along with plans to take on Ferrari and Porsche in the next few years).
Many car makers demonstrated large-car concepts at the Frankfurt Show. This is in recognition of the crucial Chinese market, which strongly favours much larger models than we usually take in Europe. Some of the biggest included the Peugeot HX1, the Citroen TUBIK and the Kia GT. Volvo's Concept You was another big car that hints at a future large car.