Spring arrived in Geneva just in time for the Motor Show. The Alpine peaks were still dressed in white, but Geneva was revelling in the spring air. Switzerland is a fascinating country to return to; it feels as though time stands still there. Not much changes year on year: the vines, the beautiful houses and the stable infrastructure are always there. Switzerland is surrounded by countries grappling with financial instability, high unemployment and growing nationalism.
But Switzerland manages to keep the chaos out. Unemployment remains low, the Franc is now linked with the Euro, the inflow of foreign capital has slowed slightly. But all in all, the country just goes chugging along, quite unaffected by the turbulence surrounding it. I experienced a little of the same at the Motor Show. Despite news headlines trumpeting vehicle overcapacity around the world, economies crashing and flashing red environmental warnings, we saw beautiful women leaning over large, powerful cars with several hundred horsepower that can do 0-100 kph in 3 seconds. Just like Switzerland, the Motor Show appears to go on living inside its bubble, independent of the chaos surrounding it.
Of course, there were small, fuel-efficient, eco-friendly cars at the Motor Show. Absolutely. And it was with great pleasure that I hopped into these small, scaled-down cars that I think will become bestsellers in Europe among the youth of today; people who do not have the money to buy a large, powerful car, or who feel it would be all wrong to buy such a car from an environmental standpoint. Electric and hybrid cars were also represented at the Motor Show. These were not given as much prominence as in previous years as they have now been around for a couple of years and this technology is now more of an obvious feature rather than a major innovation.
There were also people at the Motor Show who dared to go against the masses and actually said that if we carry on along the same lines as today, everything will just go all to hell. The person who most clearly expressed his disquiet in this way was Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat/Chrysler. He was of the opinion that car plants have to close, and that certain countries have to stop being so protectionistic about their automotive companies. He creates headlines wherever he goes, but the question is: how much influence does he exert on the industry? Few can contradict him, but the most usual comment heard is "that does not affect us — others can cut back and shut down car plants, we are not going to".
The Alpine peaks seem to manage to shut out much of the concern of the rest of the world in Switzerland. The country remains stable despite the stormy seas surrounding it. The question is: will the car industry fare as well? Is the car industry sufficiently united to withstand the pressure of what surrounds it. I do not think so. Some will probably make it, but at the expense of others.