Today the world’s biggest motor show gets underway in Germany. The Frankfurt Motorshow is the moment many of the world’s best known car manufacturers get together for a grand display of vehicles that have been polished so hard it’s a miracle there’s any paint left on them.

 Protest at Opening of IAA in Frankfurt

But while the firms exhibiting at the event will be keen to tell you how fast their cars get from zero to 100 kilometers an hour, what you’re unlikely to hear is how the car industry is looking increasingly irrelevant as consumer choices, technology, and government policies are rapidly forcing the industry to change. 

Here are five reasons why.

1. Climate change

Air pollution in Delhi

While some car firms are keen to brag about how efficient their petrol and diesel models have become, the reality is the vehicles they produce now contribute more than 20% of the total CO2 emissions in many countries.

In many countries around the world the electricity generation sector has started to reduce its carbon footprint, yet road transport has failed to get its total emissions down. With the need to tackle climate change becoming more and more urgent, car firms can only stay stuck in their old ways for so long.

2. Air pollution

Air pollution in London

In Europe, nearly half a million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution. But in other areas of the world, the situation is even worse.

With public concern about air pollution on the rise, car firms that remain fixated on making petrol and diesel vehicles look out of step with what people want.

3. Petrol and diesel bans

Electric vehicles charging

The Frankfurt motor show is taking place while some governments are unveiling plans to ban petrol and diesel vehicles. A number of car firms have switched on to this, like Volvo who recently declared that all its new cars will be electric or hybrid from 2019.

Meanwhile, most of the big car firms at the Frankfurt motor show are still so focused on the internal combustion engine. It really begs the question - what planet are they on?

4. Dieselgate

Action at VW factory

It’s been almost two years since Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions tests and the truth was uncovered about how some diesel cars were emitting “up to 40 times more pollution" than allowed.

While other car companies, like Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover, have committed to phasing out diesel and petrol vehicles, VW still has a long way to go to clean up their act. And now, on the back of the Dieselgate scandal, even more of Germany’s biggest car firms, like BMW and Daimler, are under pressure to change.

5. Car sharing

Cyclists on street in Hannover.

In many European cities, younger generations are already shifting away from owning cars and choosing bicycles and public transport instead.

With more and more of the world’s population moving to cities - a trend that is set continue in years to come - this could mean an increasing number of people begin to see the idea of owning their own car as an expensive and cumbersome option in comparison to car sharing.

This blog is based on a new Greenpeace report: “Why the Automobile Has No Future. A Global Impact Analysis” – download it here.

Richard Casson is a campaigner for Greenpeace UK