Full report of the 2010 Geneva motor show, plus launch latest
9 December 2010

“That’s it,“ declared one loud-voiced onlooker in the early-morning crowd surrounding the Porsche stand. “We’ve seen the show star; now we can go home.”

It was barely breakfast time on the first of the 80th Geneva motor show’s two preview days, but Porsche’s magnificent new 918 Spyder looked so beautiful and desirable - and so close to reality - that it seemed highly unlikely anyone else was going produce a car to trump it. And no one did.

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Actually, Porsche showed three hybrid models - “one for the road, one for the track, one for the future” - and boldly claimed it was providing a most positive answer to the central question that had been hanging over fast, expensive, well-bred driver’s cars for years: can such machinery survive in the fast-approaching green era that so many other 2010 Geneva cars were helping to bring forward?

Porsche’s hybrid for the road was the £57,000, V6-plus-electric Cayenne S hybrid, on sale at mid-year. Its hybrid for the track was a 911 GT3 with an F1-style KERS regenerative braking system that will race at this year’s Nurburgring 24 Hours. And its hybrid for the future was the beautiful 918, a car with all the impact of the exclusive Carrera GT launched here a few years ago (and built on the very same carbon chassis). It was officially labelled a concept, but the bosses of Porsche’s main European outposts - such as British MD Andy Goss - were already carrying specially printed “letters of interest” for potential buyers to sign.

Stuttgart’s decision to show cars that really will see the light of day set one of the key trends of this year’s Geneva. Whereas recent shows have been peppered with hopeful proposals, this time we saw the production cars that have resulted from the creative thinking, many of them (unlike the Porsches) small or at least affordable.

Nissan backed up its admired Juke with a new Micra, which looked sensible enough, even if it lacked the outgoing model’s purity. Renault had its new folding-top Wind sports car, which looked every bit the young Parisian lady’s sporty car of choice, except that the underpinnings are pure Twingo RS and the company aims to produce some “tough” Wind versions early in its life to attract male buyers. Citroen showed the DS4 high-rider, an attractive and sporty SUV that further helped to display the breadth of its designers’ creativity. Alfa Romeo unwrapped its Focus-sized Giulietta, surely the best everyman Alfa for at least a decade, and Ford revealed the new Focus itself, both the hatchback and estate. These were highly competent cars, obviously ready for a big market, but they didn’t speak much about the avant garde side of the car business.

Audi kept up its recent new model offensive, revealing both the conventional, much-heralded Polo-based A1 and an unexpected e-tron electric version, with tiny range-extending Wankel engine. The car can do 30 miles purely on the batteries, then 124 more miles with the engine running, for a net fuel consumption of nearly 150mpg. It showed again (if anyone still doubts it) how fast Audi's engineers can move.

Then there was the Aston Martin Cygnet. Before unveiling it, company CEO Ulrich Bez, a true one-off, used reporters’ valuable time to describe how his shareholders had begged him to renew his contract until 2016, and to announce that he was agreeing to their request. At that stage he’ll be 72 and won't hold the position of CEO any more, but leadership was everything, he told us, at this difficult time. We took a moment to speculate on what it will be like for the new CEO who has the near-retirement Bez as his advisor...

The Aston CEO also unveiled a run of 20 black DBS models bearing his initials, specially launched to commemorate his 10 years in charge. Only then did the wraps come off the long-awaited little car, which displayed a beautifully integrated Aston grille plus bespoke scoops, badges and lights front and rear, a superbly retrimmed interior and considerably neater frontal styling. But its mechanicals and performance are still all iQ, which you can buy from one-third to one-fifth of the price. Aston’s hope must be that the rich ladies who drive these - or buy one for the nanny - will never get close enough to the ground to notice a real, live Toyota city car.

Finally, this year’s Geneva featured a kind of mini-Turin show of the old days as the famous-name design studios from northern Italy displayed speculative concept cars, as they once did as a matter of routine. They’re all struggling as the big manufacturers take their design work in-house. Still, people often do their best work in adversity and there was something to admire in each of Bertone’s Alfa Romeo Pandion concept, Ital Design’s Proton hybrid, Zagato's Perana Z-One, Idea's Sofia and Pininfarina’s Alfa Spider. They spoke for the whole 2010 show, actually. Everyone was there, activity was back to pre-recessionary levels, and optimism was the pervading sentiment. It was a vintage event.

Steve Cropley


Geneva motor show 2010

AC city car, AC MkVI, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Alfa Romeo Pandion, AMG’s new 5.5-litre V8, Audi A1, Audi A1 e-tron, Audi A8 hybrid, Audi RS5, Aston Martin Cygnet, Bentley Continental Supersports cabriolet, Bentley Continental Flying Star, Bentley Mulsanne, BMW X5, BMW Active Hybrid 5-series, Bufori MKVI, Bugatti 16 C Galibier, BYD e6, Cadillac relaunch,Carlsson C25, Chevrolet Aveo RS, Citroen DS3 Racing, Citroen DS4 High Rider, Citroen Survolt, Dacia Duster, Ferrari 599 GTO, Ferrari 599 hybrid, Fiat 500C Abarth and Punto Evo Abarth, Fiat Doblo, Fiat’s Twin-Air engine, Fisker Karma, Ford C-Max and Grand C-Max, Ford Focus estate, Ford Focus RS special edition, Gumpert Apollo, Hispano Suiza, Honda 3-RC, Honda CR-Z, Hyundai i-flow, Idea hybrid, Infiniti EX30d, Infiniti M, Jaguar XKR, Kia Sportage, Kia Venga EV, Koenigsegg Agera, Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, Lexus CT 200h, Lotus Elise, Lotus Evora Cup racer, Lotus Evora hybrid, Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S Awards Edition, Mazda 5, Mazda 6 facelift, Mazda MX-5 20th Anniversary, Mercedes F800 Style, Mercedes S63 AMG, MercedesSport E-class range, Mini Countryman, Mini JCW diesels, Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Juke, Nissan Micra, NLV Quant, Pagani Zonda Tricolore , Peugeot 508 concept, Peugeot SR1, Pininfarina’s Alfa Romeo spider, Porsche 918 Spyder, Porsche Cayenne, Porsche Cayenne hybrid, Porsche Panamera V6, Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid racer, Porsche 911 Turbo S, Proton hybrid concepts, Protoscar Lampo 2, Renaultsport Clio Gordini, Renault Megane CC, Renault Megane GT, Renault Wind, Rinspeed UC?, Seat Ibiza ST, Seat IBE, Skoda Fabia and Roomster facelift, Skoda Fabia vRS, Subaru Impreza XV, Suzuki Kizashi, Tata Aria, Toyota Auris facelift, Toyota Auris HSD, Toyota RAV-4, Toyota FT-86, Vauxhall Flextreme GT/E, Vauxhall Meriva, Volkswagen Polo GTI, Volkswagen Cross Polo, Volkswagen Sharan, Volkswagen Touareg, Volvo S60, Westfield iRACER.

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Comments
1

3 March 2010

The best Geneva Show for a long time. I was there yesterday. Optimism pervades this show and I agree with Steve that it is very reminiscent of the old Turin with manufacturers demonstrating plenty of creative thinking in an effort to meet the challenges of the next few years.

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