GENEVA PREVIEW: Automakers hope for new model boost in flat Europe market
Revived VW Golf drop-top will be one of many crowd pullers
Carmakers gathering for the Geneva motor show this week are scrambling to boost their presence in booming emerging regions, as they showcase the new models they hope will boost their share of Europe's flat market.
European car sales are expected to remain roughly stable in 2011 now that the scrapping incentive schemes that propped up demand have finished, while sales in markets like Asia, Latin America and Russia will keep growing, Reuters said in a show preview.
Carmakers are pinning their hopes on cracking these markets, signing partnerships with local players, designing new models with those regions in mind, and increasingly, presenting new cars to the public in these regions.
But "the Geneva auto show lets us take stock of the European market," Societe Generale analyst Philippe Barrier told the news agency.
"Unlike Frankfurt or Paris, it is more European, less 'local'," he added.
Geneva, which is traditionally slanted towards higher-end models, will play host to many mass market launches too, as carmakers jockey for a bigger slice of Europe's stagnant demand.
Fiat will presents a new Lancia line-up based on its US partner Chrysler's models.
Mitsubishi will unveil a new small concept car dubbed Concept Global Small while Suzuki will show another concept car, the Swift-S.
Volkswagen will revive the Golf convertible, and display a revamped Tiguan SUV.
Renault, hoping it can put the industrial espionage scandal that has engulfed it since January behind it, will concentrate on design at the auto show.
Design head Laurens van den Acker, and not chief executive Carlos Ghosn, will address the media on Tuesday, as Renault presents two concept cars - a multi-purpose vehicle, as well as the Captur crossover, based on partner Nissan's Juke.
Renault showed images of the sporty Captur when it unveiled its new strategic plan and pledged to boost its model line-up.
Renault will also present the enlarged version of its Kangoo electric van, part of the group's bid, with partner Nissan, to be a leader in the burgeoning technology.
Early mass-market electric vehicles like Nissan's Leaf and U.S. carmaker General Motors' Chevrolet Volt, are now on sale in Europe and the show will be a chance for carmakers to talk about early reactions from customers, Reuters said.
As western carmakers increasingly seek to tempt consumers in markets like China many launches, in particular of bigger sedans and high-end models, now take place in those regions.
Citroen will reveal the sporty, high-end DS5 at the Shanghai show in April, sticking to unveiling a concept car this week in Geneva.
BMW is expected to wait for Shanghai to take the wraps off the new 6-series coupe.
"The recovery of the luxury market will enter full flow," wrote IHS Global Insight analyst Ian Fletcher in a note, cautioning however that the growth in demand for these vehicles would come from Brazil, Russia, India and China, not the former core markets of Europe and North America.
"We may see that events in these regions begin to take precedence over the more established order, he added.
A spokesman for French carmakers' association CCFA agreed: "With premieres now reserved for China we see that the world has changed. In the longer-term there is a question mark over the survival of intermediate auto shows like Geneva."
For now, Geneva keeps its lead on luxury, playing host to the world premiere of Aston Martin's V8 Vantage S and Ferrari's new FF model, the first Ferrari with a real boot, Reuters said.
Meanwhile, the Korea Herald said South Korean carmakers are set to use this week’s Geneva show to showcase practical new additions to their lineup.
Hyundai, affiliate Kia, GM Korea's Chevrolet and Ssangyong will all show their cars.
Hyundai will unveil its first mid-sized i40 station wagon for the first time and the Veloster coupe - first seen at Detroit in January - will make its European debut. The i40 is Hyundai’s fourth vehicle designed specifically to target European motorists.
The company will first release the i40 with a 1.7-litre diesel engine in Europe during the first half of the year and may add a petrol engine to the lineup, a Hyundai official told the paper. Hyundai is also said to be considering launching the vehicle in Korea later.
Kia’s main display at Geneva are the subcompact known by the project name UB and the latest version of the Morning city car, known as the Picanto overseas.
The two carmakers are also showing off seven eco-friendly vehicles including hybrid electric versions of the Sonata and K5, and concept cars at the event.
While GM Korea is not taking part in the event as a separate entity, Chevrolet vehicles produced by the company will be on display.
The highlight of GM Korea’s contribution to the US brand’s exhibition is the Cruze hatchback that makes its debut at the show - the sedan has just gone into local production in Australia branded as a Holden.
Along with the new hatchback, the Orlando, Aveo and Camaro will be on Chevrolet’s stand.
The highlight of Ssangyong’s offerings for the show is the Q-150 concept car that will follow up the Actyon Sports utility truck.