Frankfurt Motor Show open its doors for the public today – gets visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel image

German Chancellor Angela Merkel officially opens the 64th International Motor Show in Frankfurt, saying the car industry is a “central pillar of our economy”.

Merkel said widespread electric and hybrid car use was still some time off but that the government was investing a lot into programs to advance technologies and their offering on the market.

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: “The amored cars that I have to be driven in for safety are not the first in line when it comes to E-mobility. But I am convinced that someday they will use hybrids or other cars for that. I like the idea very much, I am sold on the new development.”

Merkel said the current estimate is to have about 1 million electric cars on the road by 2020, so “it would really take another generation of car buyers” before the trend is widespread in Germany.

It’s not the first time a politician has visited an auto industry event as a show of support for domestic manufacturing. In 2010, Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood attended the Detroit Auto Show as beleaguered U.S. automakers were aiming to get back on track after Chrysler and GM received a government bailout.

It’s just a five-minute drive from the stock exchange in downtown Frankfurt to the IAA exhibition grounds. But while stock traders are tearing their hair out at the turmoil on the markets, there’s a party atmosphere in the car-filled exhibition halls.

Dieter Zetsche, CEO of the industry’s leading firms Daimler Ag., has yet to see any signs of impending doom.

“We have excellent order figures all round the world,” he told Deutsche Welle. “And we’re confident that we will see growth next year too.”

However, many car industry executives, speaking at the Frankfurt car show, have urged Europe’s politicians to act boldly to solve the debt crisis, warning that the single currency could be derailed without decisive action.

The Frankfurt Auto Show swung into gear today with a full range of drive types unveiled at special events – classic drives optimized through hybridization, plug-in hybrids and range extended vehicles up to the pure battery-powered electric cars and vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Running through Sept. 25, the event is a premier platform for German automakers and some of their international rivals to promote their latest innovative designs.