On the face of it, entering the huge exhibition hall is just like it always is: spotlights, shiny cars and lots of people. The messages from the various manufacturers attempt to find angles that will profile their brands when on the outside, their cars are fairly similar. Sometimes the messages they try to put out seem a little banal, but they battle valiantly to make themselves stand out. When I look for general trends, I can see that more and more expensive small cars in the luxury category are coming out of Europe. Glass roofs are starting to become more common, and headlights now have to extend further and further up over the front — they look a bit like aquariums — and they look great, but these features make minor damage expensive to repair. All manufacturers expecting to have a future are exhibiting electric and hybrid cars, but these cars are not really drawing as much attention this year.
Perhaps there is not much more to say about them than has already been said, and no major breakthroughs have been made as far as batteries are concerned. Internal combustion engines are becoming more and more economical, and the number of airbags fitted is on the increase. The Geneva Motor Show takes place in a single hall for the most part, which makes it easy to overview — but there is a lot of everything.
On the surface, everything feels cheery and grand, but there are undertones of disquiet; there is major overcapacity in Europe and adjustments need to be made. But where? Everyone can see the problem, but they all feel that the cutbacks should take place elsewhere. The EU has added to the mix with advantageous finance to new plants in new EU member states in order to get industrial development under way in these countries — but capacity regulation must definitely take place at EU level for it to be implemented.
The Germans are tightening their grip on the prestige segments, but they entering into the small car segment with great force. The Koreans, the Japanese, and soon the Chinese as well will be applying pressure from below in the small car segment. The French and Italian car marques, among others, are caught between the two, as well as GM and Ford's European operation. Things will be happening. I was able to meet the head of Mini, the head of Peugeot and Sergio Marchionne, the head of Fiat/Chrysler. Three very different men in the automotive industry.
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