Geneva Motor Show: Round-up Report


The sheer scale of this year's Geneva show has made strolling the Palexpo's cavernous halls a dazzling experience. The Swiss international motor show has few peers even in its quiet years, but the current event will take some beating.

Almost every manufacturer unveiled a major new model or update, and thanks to the proliferation of innovative hybrid technology there were even interesting specimens at the stands of lesser known manufacturers.

Yesterday's press conferences circled the show in a hyperactive swirl of activity. As we reported, Audi and Mercedes called on the biggest celebrity names at their disposal to lend their glittery presence to proceedings. Arguably, Timberlake trumped Schumacher for outrageous levels of press attention, but the F1 legend managed to exit the stage with considerably more dignity than the popstar, who had to be hustled from the stage by his hired muscle as the paparazzi descended.

In terms of the cars behind the stars, the Audi A1 was an unequivocal attention getter. The premium hatchback might not be the most exciting prospect visually, but just sitting in the car's fantastically well finished interior assures you that Ingolstadt are likely to have another major hit on their hands.

Porsche unveiled the stunning 918 Spyder, which was not just a revelation for the outrageous figures it generated (0-60mph in 3.2secs, 94mpg, 70g/km etc) but also for the manufacturer's quiet assurance that they never produce a concept which they don't go on to build for the road.

At the opposite end of the scale sat the new Nissan Micra, destined not for the cover of hi-end car magazines but for dealerships in India, Thailand and China. Nissan made no apologies for the aggressive pursuit of colossal production volume, and the Micra might become one of the few cars which almost every driver in the world will instantly be able to recognise.

Beyond these there were twenty more models worthy of attention; the Ferrari 599 Hybrid concept, Aston Martin iQ , Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Mini Countryman, Lexus CT200h, BMW 5-series hybrid and Mercedes-Benz F800 to name just a few.

There were in fact so many highlights that several potential show stoppers were almost overlooked; the Toyota FT-86 seem to be garnering little attention, and the new Focus's wilfully understated styling made for an inconspicuous centre piece to the Ford stand.

Despite the show's palpable energy, it must be said that Geneva's hectic schedule is not necessarily evidence of the car industry's rude health. The production cogs turn very slowly in automobile manufacture, and many of the new models on display would have been commissioned during the good times rather than in the depths of recession.

Two major car companies – Volvo and Saab – were at the show with handsome new cars, but both remain under clouds of uncertainty due to the trials and tribulations of a shift in ownership.

But it was easy to dismiss that kind of pessimism moving from stand to stand, and there was easily enough creativity, enthusiasm, imagination and engineering excellence on display to make you forget the dark times altogether.