Surrounded by the Jura Mountains to the west and the French Alps in the east, Geneva is a gateway to the peaks. It’s a perfect destination for the ultimate road trip and the setting for the Geneva Motor Show – one of the most important and attractive showcases for the automobile world. Finance Director Europe took to the road to witness the spectacle and report on what is on the horizon for the car industry.
In March, 700,000 visitors and 10,000 media representatives from over 100 countries descended upon the exhibition halls of Palexpo, Geneva, for the 87th International Geneva Motor Show (GMS).
Before the doors officially opened for the general public, the president of GMS, Maurice Turrettini, hosted an exclusive cocktail reception for a select group of guests. Business leaders from across the continent, including CEOs and CFOs of some of Europe’s biggest companies, joined exhibitors to toast the future of the industry.
“We are very proud to have the privilege of welcoming the world of the automotive industry to the halls of Palexpo,” Turrettini opened. “We again express our appreciation to all of the exhibitors for their confidence and participation in this exceptional event.”
Technology and enterprise are the two key words that best exemplify GMS, and Taurrettini praised the event for providing delight to more than 700,000 motor enthusiasts.
“A tour of the show is like plunging into a universe of bodyworks, with fluid or marked lines, colours that are scintillating or deep matt and reflect high performance, plus the scents emanating from high-resistance leather,” he said.
These sentiments were echoed by Andre Hefti, general manager of the motor show.
“It is also an opportunity to discover the latest technologies of ‘infotainment’,” Hefti said. “These have been launched to assist in driving and other areas to ensure our motoring is more efficient, reliable and comfortable.”
The atmosphere at the exhibition was one of festivity, with dancers and entertainers socialising with motor aficionados. A hub of innovation and a melting pot of nationalities and cultures, GMS is a networking event like no other.
The extravagant inauguration was presided over by the Swiss national councillor and head of the department of the economy, Johann N Schneider- Ammann, and the president of Geneva, Francois Longchamp. In his opening remarks, Schneider-Ammann paid tribute to the important economic role of the car sector in Switzerland, and its contributions to the areas of professional training and development.
Guests meandered through the mountains to the doors of Palexpo by special trains that were planned by the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, which is responsible for multiple car displays around the world. GMS places special focus on European manufacturers, and 175 new model vehicles were unveiled to visitors. An app created for the event, the Salon Car Collector, led guests through this assortment of gadgets and enterprise.
Since 1905, the show has unveiled thousands of worldwide premieres to the public, and this year was no exception. Emphasis was placed on the continuing evolution of all things electric with the European Battery, Hybrid & Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Congress taking place within the framework of the event.
Industry leaders took part in discussions and roundtables on the subject of hybrid vehicles combining combustion and electric engines. Demonstrating what is possible for the future of zero-emission automobiles was the ipace concept from Jaguar Land Rover, presented by the general manager for fleet and business in Europe, Simon Dransfield. The 2018 ipace is a striking example of how far the progression of the electric motor has come. A next-generation answer to the European drive towards zero-emission vehicles without compromising on performance, it can make 0–100km/h in around four seconds.
Toyota’s David Cussell, general manager for fleet, leasing and network, discussed the importance of rebalancing the fleet and making it safer, greener and cleaner. The Japanese manufacturer, which owns more than 80% of the global market share for hybrid vehicles, is on track for 1.4 million sales worldwide this year.
Drive to the future
Geneva provides a glimpse of how the cars of the future might look. Cussell was on hand to talk about the Toyota i-Tril concept – one of the space-age cars that caught eyes at the event. Powered by artificial intelligence, its butterfly doors are reminiscent of the DeLorean from Back to the Future, and the two-seater car can facilitate a 10° tilt to manoeuvre through busy city streets like a motorbike.
One of the most exhilarating aspects of the show is the opportunity to view the pioneering concept cars on display. One such model was the Lexus LS 500h, the full hybrid re-imagining of its new flagship sedan. Alain Uyttenhoven, head of Lexus Europe and executive fleet provider, unveiled the car for the first time at the show. Looking after premium customers is key for Lexus, and Uyttenhoven handles enquiries from CEOs and CFOs directly.
Elsewhere on the show floor, SEAT was introducing its new Ibiza. The modernised model of the company’s best-selling supermini made its debut on the market in June. Giuseppe Tommaso, fleet sales and remarketing director, talked about the improved features of the Ibiza, such as an edgier, sportier and more accentuated design, and a roomier interior with a more compact exterior.
Volvo staged a worldwide premiere; John Wallace, director, global fleet and major global accounts, presented its XC60, which emerged as one of the production cars of the 2017 show.
Top designers and custom bodyworkers were keen to display their handicraft. Guests marvelled at new technologies through virtual-reality glasses and wondered at science-fictionesque artificial intelligence, including innovative designs for tyres that make decisions, interact and even change shape on display.
F1 racers, supercars, SUVs, self-driving vehicles and even flying cars – the 2017 GMS was rich in discoveries, and the big takeaway from the week was just how clever this new generation of automobiles has become.