A country with no car industry, where a ban on motor racing was lifted less than three years ago seems an unlikely place to host one of the world’s premier motor shows. Somehow, Switzerland pulls it off. After last year’s rather muted affair, next week’s Salon International de l’Automobile in Geneva, the 80th such event, will be teeming with new models and innovative, relevant concepts.
It isn’t always the cars that are best remembered or most influential at a motor show; sometimes, it’s a new engine: Fiat Powertrain’s 900cc two-cylinder tiddler will be built in big numbers and is rightfully the highlight of the Fiat stand.
It isn’t just twin-cylinder powerplants that are suddenly back after an absence of several decades: the observant will notice Hyundai reviving wing mirrors with its HED-7 i-flow concept. A preview of next year’s i40, the brand’s first serious Passat-challenger, this experimental vehicles brims with tomorrow’s materials technology courtesy of BASF.
The Hyundai i-flow brims with tomorrow’s materials technology courtesy of BASF.
Another Hyundai not to be overlooked is the ix35 FCEV, a fuel cell prototype. Honda was the trailblazer with the two generations of its FCV cars, of which it has now delivered a few hundred units, but the Korean company firmly states that it will build several thousand Hyundai and Kia fuel cell vehicles from 2012.
Toyota will also be playing the advanced tech card at Geneva. The hope is that favourable publicity for its Auris HSD and Lexus CT 200h hybrid twins might begin to cast its brands’ images in a more favourable light than has recently been the case. Pricing and Co2 numbers, yet to be revealed, will be key to these cars’ success.
Europe’s other Japanese premium brand is marking its first anniversary at the Geneva show. With only big-capacity petrol engines available and what turned out to be the worst possible timing for the launch of a luxury brand, sales of ‘more than 2,000′ vehicles across 15 markets (including Russia) is an acceptable result for Infiniti.
Adding a V6 diesel for the EX & FX models, with an M30d sedan to follow, is Infiniti Europe’s next step, and a smart, logical move: Europeans these days buy few luxury cars powered by big petrol or diesel engines and fewer still with gasoline-electric hybrid powertrains.
Europeans these days buy few luxury cars powered by big petrol or diesel engines.
Mitsubishi, a forgotten brand in many European markets, is hoping for a reversal of fortune thanks to the ASX. This new rival for the hugely successful Nissan Qashqai uses the company’s C platform as introduced by the Lancer four years ago. It is in effect a shorter, cheaper Outlander. The ASX is a likely candidate for assembly at either NedCar or indeed at the new MMC/PSA Peugeot Citroen joint venture plant in Russia.
Another notable debutante at Geneva is the second generation Opel/Vauxhall Meriva. Employing a mix of Corsa and Astra modules, this little MPV introduces a new platform. With a wheelbase only 3cm shorter than that of the Insignia, it should major on roominess. As cashflow is still tight for Opel, launching the premium-priced Meriva is a higher priority than the Astra three-door and wagon that had at one time been expected for early 2010.
No such problems for firmly-in-the-black Ford of Europe, which will pull the covers off the new Focus in a variety of bodystyles. This might well be the car of the show, in fact, especially if, as is entirely possible, it starts to challenge the by-then three-year old Golf for the title of Europe’s best seller in 2011.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.