Visiting the great IAA motor show at Frankfurt is hard work. The Frankfurt Messe fairgrounds site is too big, individual halls are too big, German cars themselves are often overblown, oversized, and over-powered.

The whole event is, by non-German standards, over-organized. 2007’s theme was “green,” even if German makers were talking out of both sides of their mouths, touting low CO2 emissions from models far away from the 500-plus horsepower preoccupations that engage their passions.

For all of that, Frankfurt is important because so many key introductions are made, so many manufacturers come with exciting new products and ideas, and of course because the German industry still seems to set engineering and performance standards that others do not quite match.

Nonetheless, newly resurgent Fiat managed to out-perform the entire German industry in gigantism, and do it with a mocking sense of humor that pleased the world automotive press corps. A realistic model of the 500, some five or six times as big as the real car, dominated the stand. Every few seconds, the left rear wheel of the giant 500 would retract, and a real 500 would emerge, each with different color and trim, so that the many profit-generating extras could be featured.

This year the entire group — Alfa-Romeo, Fiat, Ferrari, Lancia and Maserati — were grouped together, in the manner of the German makes.

Mercedes takes an entire pavilion to itself, Maybach, smart and (for the moment) Chrysler; BMW erects its own temporary structure, and VW has what seems to be an entire city parking lot filled with at least one hundred cars from six of its brands. Interestingly, Bugatti was not represented.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 166

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