Geneva Unconvention-al

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The 83rd Geneva Motor Show closed its doors on Sunday. And for those looking for a central theme emerging from ten wintry days in Switzerland’s second city, the message is clear: two fingers up to austerity as a fist of super-cars rolled into Geneva.

With EU new car registrations 8.2% down last year, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association is understandably concerned. France, Spain and Italy are performing particularly badly and Renault-Nissan’s CE Carlos Ghosn thinks the European dip could fall as much as another 5% over the next couple of years. With those sorts of figures, it would be understandable if car manufacturers were planning cars that were economical, low emission runarounds for drivers looking to tighten their (seat)belts. But, no, The Geneva Motor Show put about luxury firmly in driving seat.

Chevy Stingray ConvertibleFerrari’s LeFerrari, Chevy’s seventh generation Corvette Stingray Convertible (seen right), Lamborghini’s Veneno, McClaren’s P1, Porsche’s 911 GT3, the Spyker B6 Venator and Rolls Royce’s Wraith all purred into the exhibition floor with scene-stealing on their mind. All that luxury at a time when drivers are struggling to fill up? Surely poor strategy? Not so, according to Susan Docherty, GM’s Head of European Sales, who thinks elite cars are almost a case of loss-leadership. She noted:

(The Corvette Stingray Convertible) is an image-builder, a halo car for us. It attracts a lot of consumers to showrooms for us.

Lamborghini also chose Geneva to launch their 3m euro supercar (the Veneno) of which only three will be made:

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Rolls-Royce took the opportunity to unveil its most powerful car ever. The Rolls Royce Wraith is a £220,000 6.6 litre, twin turbo V12 car that serves up a Herculean 642bhp. Oh, and did we mention 0-60 in 4.4 seconds? Described as a ‘Gentleman’s GT’, the Wraith looks just as powerful inside. The classic styling uses modern materials and obviously nods to a future that could include Rolls Royce’s first SUV. Keep your eyes peeled.

Ferrari’s puzzlingly titled LaFerrari is hybrid supercar housing a filling-rattling 950 hp and sort of got lost in all the melee. Part of that melee was Dutch-made Spyker B6 Venator:

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Quite simply, a beautiful piece of craftsmanship anywhere on the Geneva Motor Show floor. Its traverse mounted V6 offers a comparatively modest 375bhp but the styling is dreamier than Rita Hayworth in Gilda. While Europe’s mass market carbuyers remain cautious, the elite end clearly have money to burn.

On the downturn in demand, Ford of Europe president Stephen Odell puts it best:

It started as a sovereign debt issue, which is a financial issue, but in tandem it came to be a consumer confidence issue.

Nissan’s Andy Palmer was less analytic, yet no less clear:

The industry is Darwinistic by its nature. The strong will survive, the weak will die.

Such was the glut of supercars in Geneva, one could be forgiven for thinking we’re set fair for a future in which only the very well-heeled can afford to put their foot down.

vw_xl1Well, not completely. Manufacturers are still producing greener models that the unkind might suggest sit somewhere between PR exercises and indulgence. One company who might actually be serious about grasping the eco-nettle is Volkswagen. The German automotive giants chose Switzerland to announce that their ultra-efficient VW XL1 will go into production early next year.

VW’s new baby is particularly light, using a polycarbonate almost half as light as glass! Understandably, VW are claiming the XL1 will be the most fuel-efficient production car in the world. Chevrolet’s Spark EV is another Geneva launch that bucked at least some of the trend. 0-60 in 8.5 seconds, Chevy are claiming the car could make petrol stations a thing of the past. As for the future, the Renault Captur looks set for big things. This Clio crossover unveiled in Geneva has a modern, relatively muscular exterior, over 400 litres of space inside and a wealth of customisable interior touches – a little bit of luxury at a more modest price.

The world’s Greatest Automotive Shows in 2013:

  • SEOUL 28 March – 7 April
  • The Commercial Vehicle Show, BIRMINGHAM 9-11 April
  • BARCELONA 9-19 May
  • KIEV 29 May – 2 June
  • SOFIA 14-23 June
  • BUENOS AIRES 19-30 June
  • MOSCOW 9-14 September
  • FRANKFURT 10-22 September
  • BUCHAREST 3-13 October
  • JOHANNESBURG 16-27 October
  • ISTANBUL 15-17 November
  • TOKYO*20 Nov. – 1 December
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