There's to be so much optimism for the car market's future on show at Geneva this week that you can almost feel it, hanging like a benign presence over every single manufacturer's stand. Even old hands say it's special.
The sheer number and quality of new cars launched during yesterday's triumphant preview day makes it clear now that a couple of years ago – even when the car market's decline was so severe that even the canniest of canny observers wondered whether it had a bottom at all – car companies were concluding that the only way forward was to build dramatically better and more enticing cars, and await a better day.
This week in Geneva, company bosses had clearly decided that this better day had arrived, and were in the Swiss capital's Palexpo halls – perhaps the most inviting of the world's motor show venues – to tell Autocar (and the rest of the world) all about it.
Alfa Romeo boss Harald Wester sprang a major surprise by launching the terrific little 4C transverse mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car, a model so close to Lotus proportions (including an 850kg kerb weight) that initial speculation was that the Norfolk company had contributed to its design.
However, it soon became clear that the 4C has its own lightweight carbonfibre chassis designed in-house, and makes intelligent use of the new Giulietta saloon's 1.7-litre, 200bhp turbo powertrain, with six-speed twin-clutch gearbox. It will be on sale in 2012 at an estimated £40,000. The new Alfa was so warmly greeted at Geneva that VW Group chairman, Ferdinand Piech, who wants to buy the Alfa marque, observed peevishly that under VW, Alfa's sales would treble.
Ford's Lewis Booth, who flew from the US for the show, enjoyed surprising show-goers with the new company's new B-Max MPV, complete with a novel and completely unexpected pillarless sliding door system which dramatically enhances ease of entry/exit and will definitely go injto production. Booth also signalled Ford's faith in good times by revealing that his company had repaid nearly $15 billion of debt last year, and had plans to reduce its burden even more this year.