Prominent among big manufacturers sticking to their knitting was BMW, which at last revealed its much ballyhooed 5-series Gran Turismo, an appealing, slightly taller 5-series hatch with variable loading and seating options.
Having at first feared it would turn out to be a car of weird format, like the X6 SUV, we have instead been given a desirable, extra-spacious 5-series.
Citroen showed its DS3. Project leader Mark Lloyd says the appealing little Mini-sized breadvan concept is 98 per cent similar to the production car we’ll see next year.
Volkswagen slipped its new Polo onto the stand, but it looks quite a lot like a Golf Mk6, especially from the front, so you had to look twice to notice. However, VW group product chief Ulrich Hackenberg promises a car with the Golf Mk6’s suspension and reckons it’ll work far better on British roads.
Skoda’s long-awaited Yeti soft-roader looked neat and agile, but you couldn’t say the same for the bizarre Fabia Scout, an estate with plastic cladding along the sides. Note to designers and marketing people: plastic cladding has never worked and never will…
Geneva was promised a visit from Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, but he was laid low at the last minute with “a high fever”, so MD Amedeo Felisa stepped in, emphasising Maranello’s impressive assets for surviving recessions: waiting lists, a great name, and one large factory working just one shift. Felisa is confident sales of the new California could swell ’09 sales beyond last year’s buoyant 6500 units, but says Maranello would rather not force the market.
Undoubted star of Ferrari"s stand was the 599XX, a barmy, track-based lightweight coupe, which the 30-or-so owners will be allowed to keep at Ferrari’s Fiorano test facility. Among other tweaks, the car has a couple of fans in the boot floor, which suck the car onto the track just like the Brabham BT46 "fan-car" did in F1 30 years ago. That Brabham’s designer, Gordon Murray, was actually at the Geneva show, but we couldn’t find him to get a view…
Rolls-Royce’s star young exterior designer Andreas Thurner was on hand with project chief Ian Cameron to take the plaudits for the 200EX saloon concept, soon to become smaller Rolls the company will put into production late this year. Still no news on the V12 engine, but more and more are betting on a new-generation 6.0-litre BMW unit.
Video blogs from the show floor
Audi TT RS, Ferrari 599XX, Hyundai ix-onic concept, Kia No3, Lamborghini Murcielago SV, Mercedes E-class coupe, Peugeot 3008, Renaultsport Megane, Subaru Legacy, VW Polo
The Opel-Vauxhall Ampera, Europe’s even better-looking version of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, was mobbed all day. Even VW Group boss, Dr Martin Winterkorn, who spent a few minutes sitting in its driver’s seat, seemed impressed by the Ampera’s look and feel, though when we tackled him about the concept itself, he was quite firm that the car’s greatest potential problem would be the battery, for all the well-known reasons.
The subject of electric cars was raised a lot at Geneva this year, especially with reference to the French manufacturers, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault, which have joint ventures and well-advanced production programmes in place. But we’re still waiting to discover what a real, live French battery car actually looks like. Perhaps Frankfurt will tell us more.
The Japanese barely distinguished themselves. Used to decades of success, some have been displaying signs of near-panic recently. But Infiniti did well with its clever Essence coupe, a DB9-sized GT design study that won lots of praise from rival designers for the excellent resolution of its complicated surfacing. Toyota took the wraps off its useful, but hardly glamorous, Verso MPV, but blotted its copybook by cancelling a press conference on launch day “to save money”.