Optimism roars back as Geneva Motor Show opens

Optimism roars back as Geneva Motor Show opens

3rd March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Out with the gloom, in with the boom: Sleek luxury sports cars, high-end SUVs and nifty little city cars will be bumper-to-bumper when the Geneva Motor Show opens to the media Tuesday.

The 85th edition of the show, one of the auto industry's biggest and most diverse events, will feature some 900 shiny vehicles.

And with 90 sleek never-before-seen machines set for their world premieres in Geneva, the show appears to be revving up to be one of the most spectacular on record.

The some 220 manufacturers showcasing their new beauties in Geneva are expected to be in high spirits as the long-suffering European car industry looks poised to swerve into the fast lane.

After being dogged by malaise since crashing into the economic crisis in 2008, European car makers finally emerged from the red last year.

"We are optimistic for the European market" this year, Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn told reporters on the eve of the event.

Among the eagerly awaited newcomers are Renault's cross-over SUV Kadjar, aimed at taking on Nissan's popular Qashqai, as well as a new version of Skoda's flagship Superb sedan and a new Ford Focus RS.

But such family-oriented cars will as always need to battle for attention with the latest generation of jaw-dropping luxury vehicles.

Ferrari is launching its new 488 GTB supercar, while Austin Martin will unveil its new race car-inspired Vantage GT3.

And the front end of McLaren's brand new P1 GTR resembles a knowing smirk, a pointer perhaps towards the racetrack-ready motor powering this $2 million (1.78 million euro) dream car.

"Green" cars, boasting next-to-no emissions, and concept vehicles looking towards a driverless future are also expected to draw crowds.

- 'Recovery could accelerate' -

"The mood in Geneva will be largely upbeat," predicted German car expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer.

With sales in Europe up 5.7 percent in 2014 and swelling 6.7 percent in January, there is finally something to get excited about.

And last month, France saw sales grow another 4.1 percent, while they were up 7.0 percent in Germany and a full 26.1 percent in Spain, helped by an ongoing government subsidy programme.

The European Automobile Manufacturer's Association (ACEA) has meanwhile predicted a cautious two percent growth for the European car market in 2015.

Others however were more upbeat.

"We can see that the recovery that we noted last year is continuing, and could even accelerate in early 2015," said auto market analyst Flavien Neuvy of Cetelem credit company.

But the European car industry still has a way to go before fully returning to pre-crisis sales volumes.

Last year, only 12.5 million cars were sold in the European Union, compared with 16 million in 2007.

And the recovery remains uneven, with southern European countries like Spain, Italy and even France facing a particularly steep climb.

The European divisions of General Motors and Ford are also still struggling, hit by the implosion of the Russian market amid the raging conflict in Ukraine.

But after being forced to undergo painful and dramatic restructuring processes during the crisis, French car manufacturers are meanwhile finally able to be more upbeat.

PSA Peugeot Citroen, which almost plunged off a cliff a year ago, said recently it had slashed its losses by three quarters and posted its first operational profit in three years.

Renault meanwhile announced it would create 1,000 permanent jobs in France this year on the back of a strong growth in profits in 2014.

Despite their recovery, French manufacturers are still trailing behind German carmaker Volkswagen, which with its stable of brands like VW, Audi and Skoda, alone accounts for a quarter of the European market.

The German behemoth, which appears set this year to take the lead in global auto sales for the first time, if it manages to overtake Toyota, on Monday saw its new Passat crowned European Car of the Year.

The 85th Geneva Motor Show, which opens to the public on Thursday and runs to March 15, expects to draw some 670,000 visitors.


© 2015 AFP

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