Tips for visitors

  • pick up the official visitors’ guide in English prepared by Illustré magazine, by far the easiest way to find your way around, and well written
  • go to the bank beforehand, as there are only two ATMs inside the hall and they tend to be busy; bring change, as there is just one change machine, near the entrance
  • wifi: yes, Palexpo has it, but with a pre-paid card for one hour to three days, on sale at door E13
  • children, dog and smoking: no smoking inside the building and six designated areas just outside; no dogs except guide dogs; children 2-5 years can be left at the nursery for CHF5/hour for three hours
  • click on images below to view larger

Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – The born-again car industry is hoping to get out of the red by shifting most of us into the green. There are two kinds of cars at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show: those for consumers who care about the environment and their pocketbooks, and those who lust after big hunky gorgeous fast cars. Switzerland’s Illustré magazine, which prepares the official visitor’s guide writes aptly that “there will always be extremists: hardline opponents of he automobile on the one hand, and absolute car fanatics on the other. But increasingly, passion and reason are coming together.”

Ironically, the biggest car colours at the auto show seem to be black and white. White models are displayed where the manufacturers want us to think clean but black is used where power is the main appeal. Fiat Friday morning 5 March sent out word, for example, that a limited edition Fiat Black Bravo will become available, only in Switzerland, after the car show. It is designed to “make the car more sporty and aggressive.”

Toyota appears mainly in saintly white, with a large display of cars and messages on the wall about working together to ensure top quality cars.

In between are a few Fiats, Fords, Renaults, Seats and Subarus in cheerful shades of several colours, so there is still room to appeal to the average driver who uses a car to go to work, pick up the kids and just generally get around, who wants a car to match the house colour or wardrobe or that’s easy to find in a parking lot of black, gray and white cars.

A key thing to remember about the Geneva Motor Show, if you live in Switzerland or neighbouring France, is that this show isn’t really just for us. It is one of the big five world car shows, alongside Detroit, Frankfurt, Paris, and Tokyo. It has the distinction of being the only one in a neutral, as in non-car manufacturing, country. It’s the only European show that takes place every year.

Future purrrrfect

The Geneva Motor Show has 150 world, European and Swiss premieres in 2010. The show is designed to present the close and distant future of the industry: concept cars that are not yet or may never be in production, new models and improvements. So some of our favourite cars are not here and some of the ones on display won’t be available for our garages in the near future. And some won’t ever be sold in Switzerland at all.

But the cars that are here are shined and polished continually and one of the world’s most impressive workforces of car salesmen is ready to rattle off a list of reasons why their cars are perfect, or close to perfection. “Cars are one-third about moving and two-thirds about emotion,” says Frank Rinderknecht, owner of Rinspeed, habitually one of the most creative car companies at the show, and the rare Swiss car company. Rinspeed has in the past made a splash with its larger than life concept cars but this year the company is presenting a new concept, more than just a car, called UC2? (the name is a word play: read it aloud). Think of a city electric car that you load onto the Zurich-Geneva train with your own plug-in slot for charging while you travel. It isn’t for today or tomorrow, but Rinspeed has an impressive list of backers to make the project happen, including Swiss supermarket chain Coop.

Green, green, greener!

The UC2? at first glance resembles several other cars at this year’s Geneva show because electric cars is the buzz word. The other biggie: hybrid cars. The consumption charts that are now familiar to anyone who has visited a car dealer in recent months are prominently displayed at all the Geneva stands this year. One whole section is devoted to everything green, and it is worth a visit, to gain a clearer understanding of what the issues are.

One of the most interesting semi-green stands, if you can pull your eyes away from the cars themselves for a minute, is Erdgas, the Swiss natural gas company. It is holding discussions with several manufacturers during the show to encourage them to make more models that run on natural gas.

This is not a renewable energy solution for the longterm, but its proponents suggest it offers a medium-term solution to car owners and the industry, since the cars emit far less CO2. There are now 120 natural gas stations in Switzerland for 8,700 cars that use the fuel, 800 in Germany and a high number in Italy. France has a paucity, but the cars all come with two fuel tanks, so regular petrol use takes over when the natural gas runs out.

Fiat’s Doblò Natural Power Turbo (1.4 l/115 h.p.), which uses natural gas, is having its world premiere at the Geneva show.

Big and fat and gorgeous – what’s on offer

The green cars tend to put the emphasis on small, especially the electric cars. The other extreme takes up more space at the show, in every sense. Where to begin! There are the Porsches and Corvettes and Ferraris and Lamborghinis, of course, and the more elegant and sedate if wildly luxurious Buforis and Bugattis. There are also names that appear to be familiar to only a handful of the initiated or extremely wealthy because these are virtually one-of-a-kind cars.

Slightly down-market, old standbys like Aston-Martin and Jaguar have fine models on display.

In the end, commonsense has to give way, at least during the day you’re at the car show, to enjoy what, for a big part of the motoring world, is still what it’s all about, beautifully designed cars.

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