Time was when the Geneva show was a nice gentle introduction to the year. Less intense than Frankfurt. Less chaotic than Paris. Less… American than Detroit. It was the start of spring on neutral ground for every manufacturer, and gave you a guide to the cars that you could look forward to driving in the coming months.
Now it’s pandemonium. It doesn’t help that well-heeled members of the public are allowed to buy tickets for the press days (the Swiss never were averse to a money-making scheme). But the biggest problem is the sheer number of new exhibits to get round and executives to interview. No one is content with one major new car as an attraction these days. Stands are stuffed with replacement models, additional derivatives, concepts and technologies we can look forward to. You could spend a day just getting around what the Volkswagen Group has to offer.
At least the place is a lot more cheerful than two or three years ago, when we were in the aftermath of the banking collapse (any banking problem induces suicidal tendencies in Switzerland). Times may be hard in the euro zone, but there’s always China to prop things up. For now.
Any show with a new V12 Ferrari and a new V12 Aston Martin has got to make you feel good about life, but even these weren’t the real stars of the show. It was the real-world cars that are on the way that made you think that buyers are going to be spoiled for choice: the next Mercedes A-Class, very different from the two previous generations, and the Kia Ceed on the adjoining stand. It would be fair to say they would not have looked incongruous next to each other. The Ceed SW (estate/wagon) is a terrific looker.
Ford’s B-Max, with its novelty doors, overcomes some, but not all, of the practicality issues of small cars for family use. Vauxhall-Opel’s Mokka is a nicely-designed compact SUV. Jaguar’s XF Sportbrake, the company’s first stab at an executive-class wagon, was typically svelte.
Anyone looking for a theme at Geneva this year would have left disappointed. There were eco cars of course, and even a green pavillion, but there was also power aplenty, plus the odd touch of madness from the Swiss tuning firms. And the controversial in the form of Bentley’s SUV concept.
For those more concerned about what goes into their cars rather than what they look like, there was plenty of food for thought. The Next Big Thing in cars is going to be – and in places already is – connectivity: the ability to pair your car with a smartphone and operate your car like an extension of home or office. Maybe we should send a team of consumer electronics experts next year?