Cars catch cold at Geneva


It's windy and freezing in Geneva this March, but the Palexpo exhibition centre is a touch warmer, with thousands of journalists from around the world flocking the show, year after year. Except that the auto industry isn't feeling the warmth.

The 2013 Geneva Motor Show may have had quite a few launches, but when the focus is firmly on Ferrari and McLaren's hypercars rather than regular, mass driven cars, you know something's amiss. In what could be one of the quieter editions in years, the Geneva Motor Show is proving that all is not well with the auto industry just yet.


Sergio Marchionne, President, Fiat Group could be seen walking through the displays at his subsidiaries, Jeep and Ferrari with a feeling of pride as both those brands have shown record growth in 2012. Yet, he continues to fight detractors and critics who fear that a significant chunk of production in Italy could move out. Peugeot have a large stand, but not many new products as the group suffers a $6.5 billion loss and labour trouble. While VW Group had a 40 per cent growth in 2012, analysts say it's below expectations.

But there are silver linings too. Jaguar Land Rover, who have completed five years under Tata Motors ownership have committed 500 million pounds to a new engine plant in the UK and 2.75 billion pounds for the introduction and development of eight new products or refreshes for the next year. This, despite parent company Tata Motors who have had a tough time in their passenger car business over the last year. In fact for the first time in years, Tata Motors hasn't shown any new concept at the Motor Show, keeping its presence low-key. Speaking to Lex Kerssemakers, senior vice president, product strategy and vehicle line management at Volvo Car Corp, one could get the sense that the European car market is shifting. "We find that the US and China continue to be strong markets for our larger cars, but Europe is moving towards smaller premium cars like the Volvo V40 Cross Country". The V40 CC as it is called is heading to India too, this June in a segment represented by BMW's X1 and Audi Q3. Having enjoyed a growth of over 100 per cent in 2012, the company is considering setting up an assembly plant, hastened also by the increase in excise duties on CBUs during the Union Budget.

Premium manufacturers are the ones who are enjoying the Geneva Motor Show. Maserati has a new lineup of cars that will help them grow from the current 7,000 units a year to 50,000 units by 2015. Jaguar's new F-Type roadster is expected to help improve brand image and footfalls while Audi is banking on plug-in hybrids to bring in the numbers in Europe.

Efficient and low emission products continue to make their presence at the Show as European legislations get ever tighter. Volkswagen's new XL1 may be limited to just 250 units a year, but promises to deliver a fuel efficiency greater than 100 kilometres per litre, thanks to its aerodynamic shape, light weight and hybrid powertrain. Electric cars and hybrids from group company Seat and even Land Rover made their presence felt, but the electric car story in Europe is still to gain critical mass on the back of a tight economic scenario and high acquisition prices, despite government subsidies.

Clearly, European manufacturers are hoping that by the end of 2013, the car market will show signs of a turnaround and there will be a reason to smile at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show.