REVIEW: 2010 Geneva motorshow

By Guy Bird for LS:N – LifeStyle News Global, Feb 2010

When Ferrari went 'green' and other stories...

2010’s Geneva motor show revealed a global auto industry more optimistic in outlook than at any show since autumn 2008’s Paris auto expo. More than 100 world and European premieres previewed an industry in transition – from eco-averse to eco-aware – and a switch in emphasis to lightweight, aerodynamic, smaller, more frugal and lower-emission vehicles.

‘Green’ Ferrari

Evidence of this new eco focus was everywhere – no more so than on the Ferrari stand – where the key car was a hybrid painted green rather than standard Ferrari red. The HY-KERS concept is based on the 599 GTB Fiorano model and showcases F1 tech that could cut future Ferrari CO2 emissions by 35%. Meantime, the brand has added a ‘stop/start’ function to its California model – where the engine cuts out when idling in traffic to reduce emissions – but in a sporty way of course. Ferrari points out the engine re-starts “in just 230 milliseconds, a time so fast the driver barely notices.”

Plug-in racers

Two other famous sportscar manufacturers, Porsche and Lotus, also revealed lean, green machines, but using plug-in hybrid technology. Porsche in fact unveiled three hybrids including a genuine show surprise in the 918 Spyder concept capable of a 3.2-second 0-62mph time or in eco mode 94mpg and 70g/km of CO2 – an incredible combination. Lotus – a major development partner of electric car start-up firm Tesla – showed its range-extending Evora 414E where a tiny 1.2-litre engine exists only to top-up the battery for the two electric motors that power the vehicle. Interestingly Lotus claims this solution has a lower total lifetime CO2 emissions footprint than a fully electric car of comparable performance and range using a larger battery. Either way, such technology will help all these firms comply with forthcoming EU-wide CO2 emissions standards, which goes a long way to understanding why Aston is now offering a city car…

2010’s Geneva auto show revealed a global industry more optimistic in outlook than at any show since autumn 2008’s Paris auto expo and previewed an industry in transition – from eco-averse to eco-aware

Small car luxe

As already reported at LSN, small car luxe is a growing trend, started by Mini and now spreading as far as Aston Martin. The high-end sports car brand revealed a clay model of its city car idea last year and finally showed the production-ready Cygnet concept at Geneva. Based on the clever architecture of the Toyota iQ, it offers identical three-plus-one seating but is wrapped up in an altogether more luxurious package including Aston exterior design details like flush-to-the-body door handles and side and bonnet air intakes plus an expensively upholstered leather interior with real metal inserts.

After researching its customers’ other cars Aston found that some 25% also owned a city runabout and so plans to cater for that market (reckoned to be worth 2000-4000 units in Europe alone) as well as dramatically reduce its average emissions per car in the process. The Cygnet produces only 110g/km of CO2 compared to 389g/km from an Aston Martin DB9. Cygnet prices will start from eye-watering £30,000 up to £50,000 depending on individual customer requirements – ‘cheap’ for an Aston but unbelievably expensive for a city car.

Audi also showed its first supermini-sized production car, the A1. A direct competitor to the Mini its range will start at £13,000 this year and will be a key model in the brand’s continued quest to become the world’s biggest-selling prestige carmaker. For good measure it also revealed an E-tron concept version of the A1 too – which can drive 31 miles on electric charge alone and has a small engine to recharge the battery and extend the range further (like Lotus’s Evora 414E).

New design directions

Beyond new forms of power for vehicles, many brands chose Geneva to test out new aesthetic design directions on the public. Peugeot had the sharp and arrow-like SR1, Mercedes the fluid and sinuous F800 and Vauxhall/Opel its wide, long and very aerodynamic Flextreme GT/E. Two independent Italian design studios – Bertone and Pininfarina – chose to unveil visions of how Alfa Romeo could develop in the future. Both have worked with the Italian sporting brand in the past and displayed some of the most strikingly beautiful show cars of Geneva 2010. Bertone’s Pandion took inspiration from nature and speed for its Pandion concept while Pininfarina’s ‘2uettottanta’ is a 21st century spiritual heir to the late 1960s Duetto made famous by Dustin Hoffman in the “The Graduate”.

More crossovers

LS:N’s Geneva preview mentioned the launch of a new sub-segment of crossover superminis – namely the Mini Countryman and Nissan Juke – but the show also revealed the expansion of the compact crossover segment one size bigger. The Nissan Qashqai – the car that defines the market – was shown in revised form alongside new entrants the Mitsubishi ASX and Kia Sportage. Renault’s ‘value brand’ Dacia also showed its production Duster crossover – which will herald the brand’s first foray into the UK market by 2012.

Other important unveils were so-called ‘global cars’ – vehicles that go on sale almost unchanged in every market worldwide to save development and manufacturing costs – including the Nissan Micra and Ford Focus Estate. Elsewhere Vauxhall/Opel showed some innovative small car packaging in the shape of the ‘suicide-doored’ Meriva supermini MPV and mainstream brand Citroen revealed some interesting upmarket marketing in the expansion of its highly customisable and Mini-rivalling DS sub-brand.

Overall, then, Geneva 2010 was the first motor show in 18 months that felt truly positive and forward thinking. There seemed to be collective determination to leave the recessionary gloom of the latter part of the last decade behind and move into the next decade, buoyed by the knowledge that the industry really is now developing more sustainable new products that are commercially viable and most important of all, desirable to the customer.

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