It’s four years since the automotive industry last set up camp up at the Paris motor show, and - understatement alert - much has changed in that time. Among that change is motor shows themselves. They sadly remain an endangered species, even more on so the evidence of the 2022 Paris offering.
There’s no getting away from just how small Paris was both in footprint (one hall over two floors, and even then there was lots of filler) and in manufacturer attendance. Not even Citroën turned up, leaving Stellantis brands Jeep, Peugeot and DS alongside Renault, Dacia and Alpine as the only major attendees.
Numbers were bolstered by new players from China, among them BYD and Great Wall, which made for an intriguing sub-plot to the show, particularly in light of some unfiltered comments from Stellantis boss Carlos Tavares who called either for European political leaders to impose tariffs on Chinese cars being sold here or for European cars to get favourable subsidies to make them more attractive and cost competitive.
So forget the sparsity: Paris was still a relevant, intriguing snapshot of an industry having to navigate a huge technology shift. Tavares’s message to the media on what he believes to be an existential threat to the European car industry was also delivered the evening before at a dinner with French president Emmanuel Macron.
The president himself was perhaps the biggest attraction of all at the show, bringing it to a standstill at various points as he moved about the halls (well, up and down the stairs at least). His first port of call was Renault, in which the French state is a large investor. While checking on his investment, Macron will have seen how Renault was following up the rebirth of the 5 with something similar for the 4 in 2024 with the 4Ever concept.
Many noted a similarity in the style and positioning of the 4Ever to Dacia, perhaps a compliment to just how individual a style the daughter brand has carved out in simple, appealing products. The future of that brand was previewed by Dacia’s own concept car, the Manifesto buggy. As for Alpine, the Alpenglow concept provides a manifesto of its own for the performance brand.
To Stellantis, where Jeep was the biggest attraction. The Avenger is the first Jeep properly designed and engineered by Europe, for Europe. The company calls it a “game changer” for the brand, and being an electric small SUV it is certainly on-trend, and without plenty of the baggage (high CO2, low quality) of the models before it over here.
One executive spotted taking a keen interest in the car was Stellantis chairman John Elkann. Peugeot had the largest Stellantis presence. The 408, a mix of saloon, hatchback and crossover SUV, was its main star, but bigger news is to come, for Peugeot today announced plans to launch the concept car Inception later this year that will preview the future of the company.