Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Geneva - A Super Salon

It’s the first Tuesday in March, and that means the automotive who’s who will gather in Geneva for the Salon de l’Auto – probably my most favourite motor show, and a chance to not only network, but to preview the automotive future.

This year it can be summed up in one word – electric. Most car companies showed an electric ‘something’ – and those cars were mostly plug-in battery electric vehicles. Instantly it was obvious the Euro car companies are not too worried about ‘Range Anxiety’ (how far you can go, and come back on a single charge).

Never mind that there’s little public re-charging infrastructure, there were companies selling ‘home charging solutions’ – as if that will solve the problem.

Ford, Volvo, Renault and Tesla all had battery electric vehicles (BEVs), but I saw only one Extended-Range-Vehicle, the brilliant new Chevy Volt. Clearly the Europeans reckon owners will only use their cars within one charging cycle. That sort of thinking isn’t going to work in Australia or America.

So after the disappointment of poor product planning I set off to catch up with my friends from the world of automotive design, and what a pleasure to talk with Fabrizio Giugiaro, and catch up on the work Ital Design is doing for its new owner, Volkswagen Group.

Then it was off to Aston Martin and my good friend Marek Reichmann, who was pleased as punch to show off his new Virage. After his big win with the Rapide saloon, this new coupe was all class.

Among a very interesting and eclectic collection of ‘new stuff’ was the Holden-designed Cruze hatchback wearing Chevy badges, and a not unattractive Bentley Continental ‘Shooting Brake’ from the innovative Italian firm Touring Superleggera.

Designer Adrian Griffths from Bertone Stile was keen to show off his Jaguar concept, and Mazda had a fantastic (but unrealistic) BIG sedan to boast about.

I thought Alfa Romeo’s pretty little 4C looked a winner, if they could ever produce it. Ownership of Alfa Romeo continues to be kicked back and forth in the press between Fiat and VW.

Personally, I would love to see VW pick up Alfa Romeo. The division is soaking up a lot of Fiat’s time and money, and given what Piech has done for Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini, I reckon Alfa Romeo could have a big future if Ferdinand could snatch it from Sergio.

Finally, two compact cars which caught my eye. Citroen’s fabulous little C4, and ItalDesign Giugiaro’s concept car for Volkswagen.

Then it was more networking and catching up with old friends, like Aston Martin COO, Dr. Ulrich Bez. Like many chief executives at the Geneva Salon he was very upbeat about this year, and prospects of business in the luxury sector continuing to improve.

Every year this auto show knocks your socks off, and 2011 was no different.

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