Geneva car show aims for recovery

By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News, Geneva motor show

Image caption,
The cars are the stars as the press conferences get underway at the Geneva motor show

High-powered cars from Lamborghini, Ferrari and Aston Martin are expected to steal the limelight as the Geneva motor show gets underway this week.

But industry watchers will look to less flamboyant models from, say, Hyundai, Ford or Fiat for hints at who will shape Europe's automotive landscape.

Some 170 world and European premieres will be unveiled at the show, which opens for the public on 3 March.

The cars will enter a crowded European market where profit margins are tight.

The European market declined further in January after sales fell 4.9% in 2010 to less than 14 million cars, amid widespread concerns about unemployment and economic hardship.

On top of that, carmakers that gained from last year's scrappage schemes - under which governments paid people to trade in old cars for new ones - should expect to see somewhat weaker sales during the first half of this year when compared with the same period a year ago, according to Hyundai Motor Europe's chief operating officer, Allan Rushforth.

But the motor industry should see improvements in Europe during the second half of the year, he predicted.

Pure power

Image caption,
Some 170 cars never seen before in Europe will be unveiled at the show

Ferrari's FF will be among the eye-catching performance models on display at the show.

The first 4x4 unveiled by the Italian supercar maker is also its "most powerful, versatile four-seater", the company said.

Aston Martin is also gunning for performance with its new V8 Vantage S, an upgraded version of existing Vantage models.

And Lamborghini is expected to unveil a car named Aventador, said to be faster and lighter than the car it replaces.

Mainstream hybrid and electric cars

Porsche, meanwhile, will go down a somewhat greener lane with a petrol-electric hybrid version of its four-seater Panamera, said to emit just 159g/km of CO2.

The low emissions result largely from technology that turns off the engine while driving if no power is required.

Porsche's emissions performance is beaten by a Range Rover concept, however, said to emit no more than 89g/km of CO2.

The Range Rover is noteworthy because it is a hybrid with a diesel rather than a petrol engine.

For years, all carmakers said that combining diesel with electricity would be too expensive. Now it could soon become mainstream as ever more manufacturers are eyeing such solutions.

A similar trend is seen on the electric motoring front, where more carmakers who used to dismiss it as a fad are getting ready to launch electric cars of their own.

Toyota's tiny iQ and Honda's Jazz will be on show from the early adopters of hybrids.

Corporate scrutiny

On the corporate front, all eyes will be on Fiat, who is using the show to unveil a number of European versions of cars made by its US alliance partner, Chrysler.

General Motors' efforts to sort out its struggling European division, Opel, and its UK sister-marque, Vauxhall, will also be on most industry watchers' radar.

New models from Hyundai and its alliance partner, Kia, will attract attention after the two Korean carmakers' combined sales last year outstripped their Japanese rival Toyota.

Volkswagen Group's aim to become the world's largest carmaker by 2018 will be bolstered further by a string of new models from its marques Audi, Skoda and Volkswagen.

While BMW will wow the show-goers with technology that connects cars with the world around them, making the automobile a "fully integrated part of the networked world".

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