Car giants are upbeat in Geneva
A Lamborghini Venenos on display at the Geneva Motor Show. Photograph: Valentin Flauraud/Bloomberg
Europe’s economy may be in the doldrums and its carmakers in the red, but judging from the showfloor at the Geneva motor show, better days are on the way.
Despite the barrels of red ink used in publishing the accounts of car giants like Ford of Europe and PSA Peugeot Citroën, executives at the show were remarkably upbeat.
Ford of Europe boss Steve Odell echoed the message from many when he said: “Tough times have not meant a cut in investment. We’re spending now as we expect a better future ahead. This show is about products not promises.”
For one brand that brighter future is now. The press days of the Geneva motor show have become a sideshow to the dominance of Volkswagen Group. The night before the show they held a pre-show catwalk event of their new offerings. It was a tour de force demonstration of the sheer scale of the most powerful and profitable car firm in Europe and one that’s racing towards the title of becoming the biggest car producer in the world.
The group now encompasses brands as diverse as Bugatti, Bentley, Skoda, Seat, Audi, Ducatti, Italdesign and of course the eponymous car brand. For 90 minutes they paraded new models, new technology and the corporate message as the Group’s patriarchial boss Ferdinand Piech sat centre stage, admiring his collection of car brands.
Yesterday afternoon he descended onto the show floor, visiting the stands of rivals, all welcoming him warmly, perhaps on the off-chance that one day he may deign to buy them too.
In terms of technology VW’s bulging budgets also allow the luxury of multi-billion euro investments in research. The results were also on display, with the extraordinary VW XL1 confirmed for a very limited production run of just 250 cars. Tiny volumes aside this is a viable production car capable of travelling 100km on just one litre of petrol. That’s 282mpg in old money. That sort of economy will certainly help bring down the group’s average emissions level, a bone of contention with EU authorities as officials and motor executives hammer out new targets for 2020.
For more mass appeal there’s the Audi A3 plug-in hybrid that’s on the way, along with a hybrid version of the new award-winning Golf, which will also be sold with a fully electric format. The hybrid offers 50kms on full electric before the well-regarded 1.4-litre TFSI petrol starts to lend a helping hand.
In the midst of the Piech victory parade there was also plenty of roaring metal. A new Bentley Flying Spur and the crazy looking Lamborghini Veneno both made their first public appearances.
Strangely there were a host of rivals for the supercar prize at the show, notably the new production-ready McLaren P1 and a new mouthwatering Ferrari supercar.
Which brings us to the car of the show. It should have been the Alfa Romeo 4C, but in the metal it looks too much like an homage to Lotus, while the odd-looking front light clusters ruin its look and seem to be taken from the ill-fated Smart Roadster.
It could have been the new Ferrari that had a constant bank of photographers surrounding it all day. But the ridiculous name – La Ferrari – makes a nonsense of an otherwise striking car. It’s as if they forgot to name it until minutes before its unveiling and then had a creative blank.
But the most striking car – for an Irish motoring journalist at least – was Kia’s new small coupé concept car. While its looks might not set the world alight, the fact it stood centre stage in green with an orange roof and was named the Provo was enough to stick in the mind.
Those on the stand at Geneva seemed completely oblivious to the connotations in Ireland so we might well see it feature in the product mix, perhaps beside the Kia King Billy stationwagon. While it might have a ready audience in some Border areas, the jury is out as to the reception it might receive outside Belfast City Hall these days.