The Geneva motor show tells you how much change there is in the car business. You can sense the ground shifting.
There’s the obvious stuff, like finding electric motors where engines would have been. Then there’s the non-obvious. The more nuanced, perhaps longer-term shifts.
Some are defined by that move to electrification, as it lowers the cost of entry into car making. If developing a new internal combustion engine costs a billion pounds, you have to develop all sizes, with petrol and diesel variants, and an existing manufacturer won’t sell you theirs, that’s a several-billion-pound problem. If you can buy competitively efficient motors and batteries, it isn’t.
Electric vehicle architecture itself opens up new possibilities. Motors can go front, rear or, perhaps eventually, in-wheel. Batteries tend to go under the floor. That can push car height upwards – a shame, because it encourages SUV-themes. But it also increases interior space, allows more creativity in external shaping and lets designers shine. And that heralds the biggest shift of all. As motors and chassis architecture become so ubiquitous that Volkswagen will even sell its platform for other companies to build their own body on it, design becomes ever more important. It’s the way to tell things apart.