Geneva motor show 2012: the CAR Live Blog & breaking news

By Tim Pollard and Stephen Worthy

Motor Shows

06 March 2012 19:11

Welcome to CAR Magazine's coverage of the 2012 Geneva motor show. Our motor show team is at the Salon International de L'Auto in Palexpo, Geneva, and will be reporting live from the auto show to bring you all the new car news, analysis, photo galleries, comment and gossip from Switzerland. Follow the CAR Live Blog here, and we'll update it throughout the next 24 hours. NB this is written in blog format, so start at the bottom and work your way up! All times in Central European Time (1 hour ahead of GMT), reports by Tim Pollard (TP) and Stephen Worthy (SW).

Click here for CAR's A-Z of every new car launch at the 2012 Geneva motor show.

TUESDAY 6 MARCH 2012

4.27pm: Coming to an end
CAR Magazine is about to meet up for a debrief at the end of a manic day. We're travelling light on bodies in Geneva, as it's magazine press week so there won't be many of us meeting up. There are still a few missing models which we'll add in the next 24 hours, and we hope to record a video debrief with some of our staffers out in Geneva. We hope you've enjoyed the show - and are sure you'll be adding comments below to let us know what the hits and misses were. We're off to charge up our phone batteries, stop for a bite to eat and buy a new pair of shoes. A bientot! TP


3.30pm: Bumping into Gordon Murray
I spy engineering maverick Gordon Murray taking a snap of the Bertone concept car and buttonhole him for an update on his fledgling Gordon Murray Design business. Turns out 2012 is a big year for him - they're talking to manufacturers and start-ups in 23 different countries about licensing his radical iStream manufacturing processes. 'This could be our year,' he said. 'We've been discussing it for a long time and the economic crash of 2008 was good news for us, as it accelerated interest in new ways of doing business. There's a lot of inertia in the car industry but there's a willingness to change. We are getting closer to announcing something.' TP

2.50pm: BMW throws a double six
You will notice that the BMW press conference has the same time as Kia. That's because despite the fact that the conferences have been pushed back, creating a domino effect, I think, caused by a large carmaker from southern Europe, they decided to go ahead at their allotted time. That's their prerogative but I was with the Koreans. I've always wanted a twin, just for moments like these. Perhaps the lack of an all-new model series caused them to do their own thing. There are two mild headlines. First is the new M6 - it gets the M5's V8, a 53bhp power hike on its predecessor and will hit 62mph in 4.4 seconds. Second, we are given the first chance here to see the 6-Series Gran Coupe. A response to the Merc CLS and even the Panamera, it's 113mm longer than a standard 6 and seats 4+1 - the one sits on the rear seat centre bump, presumably. *adopts stroppy stance* Thanks for waiting for us BMW... SW

2.15pm: 'Alright darling? Do you like my Mini?'
BMW Sales & Marketing Director, Ian Robertson, is a Brit in an ebullient mood as he hosts the Mini press conference. There must be a Mini switch on him somewhere as when he is on BMW duties he is far more demure. Yes, it's funkyzeit! We've got the John Cooper Works Countryman unveiled - the first JCW with all-wheel drive and an auto gearbox - and it gets a new 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine developing 218bhp. It'll race to 62mph from a standstill in 7 seconds. But the jawdropper here is the unveiling of the Mini Clubvan Concept. Yep, we thought they'd soon run out of Mini variants but now white van man can join the Mini generation and drive right up our backsides in something nippy and nimble. There are two seats upfront and two compartments behind. 'It's ready for anything you can think of,' says Ian. It probably won't shift my battered old spare room cupboard though. Then Ian, the cheeky wee tyke, says this van WILL happen - and soon. The second half of 2012 to be exact. Stunning. SW

1.50pm: Kia to suc-Cee'd again
We open up with two concepts here - a Mini-ish city car called the Kia Trackster, 'the future of Kia design' says European Chief Operating Officer Paul Philpott - and a boxy mini MPV, the RAV Ev. It's pronounced Rave Ee-vee, don't you know. More immediately interesting is the second gen Cee'd and Cee'd station wagon unveiled here and driven on stage by design boss Peter Schreyer. THE MUSIC IS NOW SO LOUD MY WATER BOTTLE IS VIBRATING! Longer and lower than the outgoing model, the Cee'd is built on a brand new platform. There's a range of engines, the most popular of which will be the 1.6 VGT diesel. The hatchback is in sale in May. Right. Someone tells me that BMW haven't done what everyone else has and put back their presser. Not going to make any jokes about efficient dynamics here at all. No, not at all. SW

1.35pm: Dacia plans UK roll-out
Renault may be on the ropes in the UK but it has an ace up its sleeve: Dacia. The budget brand has been delayed, but dealers will showcase cars from this summer with sales of Duster SUV and Sandero mini due in January 2013. And get these prices: less than £10,000 for a Duster and the new Lodgy, not yet confirmed for the MPV would cost £9000. For a seven-seat MPV! You can go forth and procreate with less worry. TP

1.10pm: Mitsubishi launches new crossover
The Outlander is one of the quieter launches at Geneva. The seven-seat crossover is actually the third best-selling Mitsu in Britainn after the L200 and ASX. The new Outlander arrives in November 2012 as a 2.2 diesel with sub 130g/km emissions. A plug-in hybrid follows in 2013 with 50g/km. In theory... TP

1pm: Peugeot gets touchy feely
Thanks to the kindly Peugeot UK press officer, and despite my decent French, I'm wearing one of those UN-style hearing aid translator things. I think I've just voted to invade Jupiter. Anyone taking of space, Houston, we've got ourselves some dancers! These ones are hugging the 208 which is revealed here. These dancers are panty-clad, covering every 208 on the stand like some avant-garde traffic light car washers. The new 2-series, as Peugeot CEO Vincent Rambaud puts it, is the 'result of mysterious alchemy'. That's overplaying it somewhat but it remains Pug's most famous brand. Right now they are talking marketing fluffiness, not hard facts as we're still ages from launch. Other vehicles on show include a new 4x4, the 4008, and the 508 HYbrid 4, the first diesel hybrid. Kudos to Peugeot too for having what appears to be the world's largest HD screen begins them. It's bigger than a block of flats. It's like an Olafur Eliasson art installation in here. SW

12.57pm: AC Cars is back
I'm typing this in an art installation on the Infiniti stand, where you can buy one of Sebastian Vettel's exhaust manifolds for £12,000. Perfect for your lounge? Just met General Sir Jeremy Mackenzie, the new chairman of AC Cars. A lifelong enthusiast and top brass of gun firm Beretta, he hopes to bring some stability to the yo-yoing AC. He's building cars in South Africa at the same factory used by Lee Noble, in Germany and in Brooklands, Surrey. Embarrassingly, the new 378 GT Zagato supercar isn't on stand - it was sent for further searching at customs in transit... TP

12.55pm: Volvo innovation - but with style
It's not as showstopping as the Berlinetta but the V40 is very pretty, premium and has one very special bit of tech. They are very bullish about this car and so they should be. President and CEO Stefan Jacoby SW

12.50pm: Lotus show a roadster of a coupe of a roadster
Remember the Exige is a hard top of the Elise? Well now they've chopped the top off and called it the Exige Roadster S. It has the V6 engine and it's been unveiled in Geneva by none other than the Ice Man, Kimi Raikkonen. There's also the LMP2 racer and a Lotus F1 Team edition Evora GTE on the new and expanded stand, hogging the space where Saab used to sit. Quite sad, that. Racing treasures galore in the new and huge Lotus stand, including this collection of helmets with Senna's yellow top from 1986 and Mansell's 1982 lid. It's hard to step onto this stand and not be impressed by the heritage. They just desperately need more people to buy more of the current cars to fund tomorrow's dreams. TP

12.48pm: The extraordinary Seat dancers
Still got no idea how these Seat poll dancers get down. Great street art. TP

12.45pm: Ferrari - faster than ever
This promises to be the busiest stand when the Swiss public are let in at the end of the week. Nothing different for the press corps either. For now, it's standing on stairs and flashmobbing other stands for a vantage point as Luca di M comes to the stage. We all know what he's here's here for. The world premiere of the F12 Berlinetta, with the fastest Fezza production engine ever. 740bhp, 0-200 km/h in 8.5 seconds. Two new colours here: Rosso (pronounced 'Rrrrrrrrrosso' by Luca) Berlinetta and Aluminium. Interestingly, someone's spelt aluminium with two Ls on the graphic. In other news, the California gets a 30% power boost to 490bhp but loses 30kgs. 'Now,' Luca closes out, 'it's time for you to touch your hands with the car!'. Ooh, the saucy devil. SW

12.35pm: Bentley and those 23in wheels
The Bentley has 305/40 ZR23 wheels, I notice, as I walk past. Perfect for crossing muddy fields and deserts, then. But I'm reminded of various dinners with chief exec Wolfgang Durheimer and his acknowledgement of business reality. It's clear to me he was brought in to launch this car and do a Cayenne in Crewe. I've yet to see a more controversial car here in Geneva. TP

12.15pm: Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes, talks to CAR
We're locked in a bunker round the back of the Mercedes stand. It must be 35C in here. Dr Z's even loosened his collar to cool down. The new A-class is one of five new compact Mercedes coming: A-class 5dr, B-class, baby SUV and four-door coupaloon are dead certs, the fifth is less certain. Perhaps an A-class cabrio? These are part of the 10 new Mercedes models arriving by 2015, says Dr Zetsche. He confirms the compact Infiniti will 'almost certainly' be spun off the MFA front-drive architecture too. Does he regret pulling out of the Chrysler marriage when Fiat seem to be doing well in the US? 'I don't regret our decision for a minute,' he shoots back. The business is healthier now the diseased parts have been lost in Chapter 11 and he tells me there were insufficient firewalls in place and had Daimler not ejected, the whole of DaimlerChrysler could have ended up bankrupt. 'It was that bad,' he admits. TP

12.10pm: Maserati's ambitious plansWho knows what time anything is now?! We appear to be officially off-piste on the schedule. Anyway, I can see the suave Signore di Montezemelo, Ferrari chairman, loitering around their stage. Not long now. China is revealed as Maser's second largest and fastest growing market. No surprise. But Russia and India will join them as Maserati's focus. Restyled Gran Turismo sport is our big reveal here - it has a 4.7-litre engine with 460 big horses in it. As seems to be the case on most restyled vehicles, new headlamps are the most significant early indicator of change. But perhaps bigger news is that Maserati claim they will go from 6200 units in 2011 to 40,000 in 2014. The Quattroporte is to get updated and there's to be a new mid-sized sports sedan. SW

12.12pm: Subaru and the longest unveil in history
I do make the start of the Subaru press conference and we're being PR'ed with the fluff of how Subaru is no1 in Switzerland for 4wd sales. Not sure how much longer they can carry on unveiling the BRZ coupe though. Its arrival is taking so long, it'll have a grey beard by the time it lands in UK showrooms. The company plans 700,000 sales this year, up from 617,000 in 2011. But will they hit 900,000 by mid decade, as planned? I'm not sure on the evidence today that they will. Even with the more-of-the-same refreshed Impreza and the brilliant UK aftersales package where they even repair dents and alloy scuffs free of charge. TP

12.02pm: Vauxhall unveils the Astra VXR

Arrive late chez Vauxhall Opel after my Zetsche interview at Merc. The Astra OPC, aka VXR, takes centre stage and you can't move but for announcements of the Ampera's win in the European Car of the Year. It's a new start for GM Europe with its recent alliance with PSA, but we'll dig out details on that separately with interviews planned. Just goes to show you can't see everything at a motor show on one day. TP

11.30am: Lancia Chrysler turns into something of a saga
The Italians have put a spanner in the works. Fiat have put us behind and now Lancia Chrysler are already 12 mins late - and Maserati/Ferrari is imminent. Still, it gives the more sleazier of the press pack an opportunity to snap the Fiat and Lancia girls, traditionally the most elegant at any motor show. Who'd have thought that from the country that gave us Silvio B? When it starts it's full-on Italiano, like a Sicilian wedding. Once more there's loads more cheese waffle from the presenter (not a Lancia exec I might add). This is all about expanding Lancia's reach for a brand that needs a lot of work on it outside Italy (of course, it remains Chrysler in the UK). A lot of quotes from the press are plastered all over the screen behind as we are given the all-new AWD Thema saloon. Big news - it's got heated cup holders! It's certainly more Detroit than Turin. Next there's the 2012 Flavia saloon and convertible. There's lots of leasing incentives announced - which suggests they need to push you to buy it. The Italians really seem to sing from a very different hymn sheet to the rest of Europe. SW

11.15am: Fiat's L of a show
Headline here after a schmaltzy Clint Eastwood Superbowl ad - for Chrysler confusingly - is the new 500L super city car. It's revealed here with the help of some impressive hydraulics, unzipping like a scuba diver's wetsuit. Built in Serbia - whose president is here - it's a city car, SUV, MPV all in one we're told. The cappuccino to the 500's espresso, something to be shared and savoured. L stands for Large, Light, Loft and Link. And it's then back to Clint as we're informed 'Youth is a state of mind'. There's no doubting this will win cheesiest press conference of the day. Still, the Panda has Fiat back rolling again; the L has a decent chance to join it. SW

11.07am: Tuners hit McLaren
A rush from the far end of the top hall down to the opposite side to interview Dieter Zetsche, big chief cheese in charge of Daimler. As I sprint down I charge past this Gembella fettled McLaren MP4-12C. Cue Woking types poring all over it. TP

10.50am: Cadillac shrink in the wash
Caddy's European chief Wolfgang Schubert takes to the stage to unveil the ATS. It's coming to Europe too, which is just what the brand needs - a compact 3-series rival. Much better than the likes of the Escalade I'm standing next to. I'm persona non grata at Cadillac after savaging the big SUV in a one-star rating recently. Hey-ho. A 2.0-litre ATS is much more like it. Sounds a bit like the UK's tyre fitting outfit though TP

10.40am: Infiniti shows a 4C rival
Infiniti is to build 200 Sebastian Vettel spec FX V8 crossovers, it's confirmed. Sadly he couldn't make it today, Red Bull Racing chief Christian Horner is here. Seems my long-termer the Infiniti M35h has been to boot camp, now tumbling just under the tax-crucial 160g/km of CO2 by a single digit. Now design chief Shiro Nakamura takes to the stage to explain the holy triumvirate of Infiniti concept cars: Essence, Etherea and now Emerg-e. It's a gloriously compact two-seater, based on the guts of a Lotus Evora 414E. So it's a mid-engined range-extender hybrid capable of 30 miles on EV mode and 0-60mph in 4sec. I love the style, the 'crescent cut' C-pillar. How about it Nissan? Enough teasing - build it! I reckon Lotus have some spare time on their hands... TP

10.30am: Lexus
There's no doubting what the Lexus message is. European VP Andy Pfeiffenberger is all about stressing more emotional designs in his brand. They've even brought two design guys from California over to wave at us (that's all - just wave). They penned the LF-LC Hybrid Sports Coupe first shown at Detroit and now in front of us here. That's the concept, but can it filter through to the cars we can buy? Lexus knows its image is far too staid. There will be five new upgraded products in 2012 says Andy P. 'There's a sharper focus in individual design, which will be more emotional than ever before.' There's certainly a more aggressive look to the all new GS saloon and FX SUV coming this year. But perhaps the biggest indicator of a potential sea change is the rolling out of the F Sport trim across all new Lexus models. SW

10.15am: Give us a T for Toyota...

Euro CEO Didier Leroy (that's Dodgier Leprosy on predictive text I've discovered) introduces concepts a plenty. And it's a dizzying riot of initials, like an explosion in an alphabet factory.  There's the electric FCV-R - that's R for reality and revolution says Didier. It wiill launch by 2015. He has a little dig at certain countries in Europe being slow to pick up in supporting plug-in cars, but not the UK, Germany and Scandinavia. Next is the Toyota NS4 hybrid saloon and the world premiere of the FT-Bh. The latter is a small, ultra (or 'ooooltra' as Didier announces it) efficient B segment, full hybrid car that's less than 4m long. 786kg. 49g/km.Finally, there's a reveal of the Yaris Hybrid, a first in the B segment. With 79g/km economy, it's due in May 2012. Right, quickly over to its posher brother, Lexus. SW

10.18am: Chevrolet goes wild west
Tenth press conference of the day and we're already running 20 minutes late. That's Swiss planning for you. The Chevy stand has US-style policemen hamming it up and girls on retro rollerskates. Good sales performances too, with 4.77 million Chevrolets sold in 2012 - making this the fourth biggest car brand in the world. 'We sell a Chevrolet every 6.5 seconds somewhere in the world,' says the European chief. Another niche is plugged by the Cruze station wagon unveiled today. Hard to believe, but the Cruze is in fact now the world's best selling Chevy. Lots of whooping when the Volt/Ampera duo are confirmed as 2012 Car of the Year. TP

10am:  Ssangyong - something stirs out east?
For perhaps the first time, there appears to be a rumble of anticipation coming from Korea's forgotten and unloved third automotive brand Ssangyong. It's stand is busier than we've ever seen it. New Korando has a way to go but it's always good to start with the looks when you're looking to build a rep. And despite a bit of Murano-ness about it, it's no more shapely Reubens than misshapen Picasso. So. They have a concept. Called the XIV-2 which its maker says is a Second Revolution. That means an entry level SUV coupe says CEO Yoo Il Lee. And it's a four-seater soft top convertible with, says Ssangyong, a focus on giving personal space to all occupants. That roll top is rather fetching but not sure about its Titian-style protruding bottom. However, I think we may be hearing a lot more from this lot in the next five years. SW

10.00am: Hyundai smorgasbord of new products
Not to be outdone by VW, Hyundai lines up a battery of new product. Europe boss Alan Rushforth says it's five years since the i30 put the Korean firm on the map - helping swell global sales past 4 million in 2011 (with a 2.9% market share in Europe). And they forecast 6% more sales globally in 2012, helped in no small part by fresh product such as the 184bhp Veloster Turbo, a 3.8-litre V6 Genesis Coupe, facelifted i20, an i30 estate and a nod to future product in the shape of thei-Oniq concept car. 'Do we want to be the world's number one?' asks the worldwide chief from Korea. 'No. We want to be the world's most loved car maker.' Hyundais may appeal to the head, but they'll need more emotion if they're to worm their way into our affections. TP

9.45am: Porsche unveils the new Boxster
Over to VW's sports car division, where it's all about the new Boxster. CAR magazine readers already know everything there is to know about this car, as it's the cover star of the new March 2012 issue, but Porsche AG president Matthias Muller tells us all about it anyway. It's 35kg lighter, 15% cleaner, more powerful, 4dB quieter... Very Germanic thoroughness, but all will be revealed when we drive it this spring. 'Our sales will grow in this segment,' vows Muller. Shame the baby Boxster - aka 550 - is on hold though. Now that'd be a Porsche with mainstream appeal. TP

9.30am: Nissan announces canny new for Sunderland

Much triumphalism from Nissan. 480,000 cars were built at Sunderland last year. And there will be another next year. Massive news for the north east and the UK. So big that Business Secretary Vince Cable is here to join in the cheering as Nissan announce that Invitation B segment concept will become a reality. Means 400 new jobs at Sunderland and 1600 jobs in the supply chain. Nissan feels more European than ever these days. They sold 700,000 here last year, up 75 per cent. Also announced is a commitment to grow the sporty NISMO brand, beginning with the Juke NISMO. I think you know where this will be built, bonny lads and lasses! Finally, we're shown the Hi-Cross concept, a seven-seater hybrid using Leaf-style battery tech to augment a 2.0m-litre supercharged direct injection engine. Phew. That was a biggie. Look, it's Vince. Hey, Vince... SW

9.15am: VW launches hot hairdressers and crossovers
The usual protocol for introducing Volkswagen scion Ferdinand and his motor show-loving wife Ursula Piech, followed by immediate unveiling of new Golf GTI Convertible. It's a Mk6 swansong before the new Mk7 Golf arrives in autumn 2012. Then the Polo Blue GT is introduced, a warm hatch mixing Bluemotion tech with a 138bhp engine and twin-clutch box and twin-cylinder deactivation. Surely a format for pocket rockets of tomorrow. Next a series of Up derivatives weave around the stage like extras in The Italian Job, showing yet further scope for Volkswagen's new Mini - with skiing variants, natural gas engines, a Swiss Up and an X-Up ready to literally head off the road and mount a kerb with its raised ride height and SUV-lite touches. The Cargo Up van then delivers the press kits on stage. And they've not even had time to unveil the Cross Coupe crossover complete with Euro friendly hybrid power. The pace never let's up at VW. TP

9.15am: Honda chases sporty market
We've seen the NSX revealed at Detroit but it still looks a showstopper - once the dry ice has disappeared. Good news for the UK comes in the shape of a doubling of production of the Civic at Swindon in 2012 to an enormous 180,000 units with the use of a double shift. It will create 500 new jobs. A new Eurooean CR-V is forthcoming, as well as new engines under the Earth Dreams Technology banner. A 1.6 diesel producing just 95g/km will be lightest engine in class, Honda say. They are also to develop a new compact sports car called the EV-Ster, with the emphasis on environmental technology. Finally, they're back in World Touring Cars in 2012 with a European Civic at Suzuka. Call it a Civic birthday present, which is 40 years old. SW

9.00am: Bentley pull off the shock of the show
Even at this early hour it's hard to work out who will upstage the Bentley SUV at the 2012 Geneva motor show. The first pictures were unveiled last night and here it is for its world premiere, one of the most shocking sights of the show. Bentley's show stand is rammed and VW bigwig Martin Winterkorn's entourage barge me out of the way as minders clear a path for top brass to attend the unveiling. CEO Wolfgang Durheimer takes to the stage and refers to the 'historic moment' the EXP 9 F represents, as important as 2002's Continental family. It's aimed at Chinese and American cities, Middle East deserts or German autobahns, says Dr D, who points out that many Bentley customers already own an SUV. Which might explain why the EXP 9 F looks rather like an earlier-gen Range Rover. Plug-in hybrid version likely alongside the W12 of the show car; though the exterior is bound to shock, the interior looks quite lovely and its split tailgate shows Crewe's not afraid to crib the best bits from Solihull. Bring on the twin test! Cue some strange falconry display, which apparently references the F in the Bentley's name. 'The falcon is like a hybrid,' claims Durheimer, who then introduces a falconer from Cheshire and forces terrible jokes about the bird's bell ringing the changes at Bentley. Quite a surreal grip on reality, really. TP

9am: Ford brings a bit of Broadway to Geneva

Thank you Ford! Their press conference is brief, snazzy and peppy, perhaps due to the presence of their American CEO Alan Mullaly (didn't he use to open the bowling for England?). European CEO Stephen Odell announces launch of new ST early next year - 20 per cent more power, top speed of 220km/h and 0-100km/h in under sevens secs. Wow moment comes with news that new Kuga will have a boot that opens by sweeping your foot under the bumper! After a succession of Teutonic voices, Mulally's American drawl is like treacle in the ears. He introduces the new B-Max compact SUV and a troupe of dancers appear wielding iPads. Thankfully none are dropped. Screens cost an arm and a leg to replace. That B-pillar - or lack of - looks like a parent's dream. Mulally ends with 'B-Max... You rock!' He gets away with it. A European CEO could not. SW

8.45am: Aston Martin plays it down
Sparsely populated press conference sees boss Dr Ulrich Bez relaying a comment a friend made to him: "Aston Martin is a huge brand in a tiny company'. Still, they've sold 24,500 cars since they went independent in 2007. SW

8.15am: Land Rover gets conceptual

Land Rover Global brand Director John Edwards begins with announcing a trek for the one millionth Discovery which rolled off the line at Solihull last week. It'll leave Birmingham and head off to the Beijing Motor Show in April. Part of journey will be completed by polar explorer Ben Saunders. I spent an Ecoque journey back to the hotel last night with him. Lovely chap with all fingers intact who is looking to recreate Shackleton's trek to the south pole this year, its 90th anniversary But them it's the turn of Gerry McGovern, LR Design Director, to trumpet the 90 global  awards it has won this year. He then unveils the Evoque Convertible concept. It's at least three years away but this will happen. Poignantly, a photo of a Series I soft top, the original Land Rover convertible, is displayed behind him. SW

8.45am: Audi go 3D with the new A3
I'm handed a pair of 3D glasses as I step on to the Audi stand. Perhaps the A3 will look better in the extra dimension than it did last night in the first pics. CEO Rupert Stadler confirms Audi will run four cars at Le Mans, including two hybrids, whisks the covers off the new RS4 ('an Audi from the University of Athletics,' groan), a TT RS Plus, an A6 Allroad and then the A3. Since 1996, the A3 has become the second biggest selling Audi with 2.7 million sold. And the 3D film? Well, it's not quite Spielberg but it makes the A3 look real as Audi's DTM drivers thrash it round a track, dicing with motorbikes and GT2 racers. This is the first time we've seen VW's new MQB architecture - a harbinger of all things Golfy - and its new radar safety systems and touchscreen handwriting recognition tech. It's also 80kg lighter than before and 99g/km CO2 is achievable, while a plug-in hybrid A3 arrives in 2014. TP

8.30am: Lambo chops the top off the Aventador
CEO Stefan Winkelmann takes to the stage, looking as sharp-suited and younger than ever. Perhaps he's made of composites. He reports Lamborghini sales in 2011 of 1600 cars, up 23% - mainly thanks to the new Aventador. They have an 18-month order bank for it and he forecasts a best ever year for V12 sales. 'We might in future have a third model, but we will continue with one-offs like the Reventon and Sesto Elemento'. Cue the new Jota - a bespoke Aventador barchetta, the lowest Lambo of all time. There's barely a windscreen to talk of, a 700bhp 6.5-litre V12 and a one-off price tag of 2.1 million euros. Gulp. Should help pay for the rumoured SUV project. TP

8.15: Jaguar XF gets practical
They're playing Space's Female Of The Species at the Jag stand ahead of their press conference (what happened to them - they were rubbish, that's what). But is this a subtle hint that future Jaguars will be more in touch with their feminine side perhaps? After a NASA launch-style countdown, Frank Klaas, JLR's global communications head, introduces a smiling Jaguar Land Rover CEO, Dr Ralf Speth. He stresses four things they are to strengthen: premium, product, footprint and to be truly, authentically British: "We are committed to the UK as this is a product created in Britain." However, they are on an ambitious drive to make cars in the new global  powerhouses - the Bric countries. Ian Callan, Jag design head, then unveils the new Jaguar XF Shooting Sports Brake. It's a cracking-looking car - athletic yet, one hopes, practical. That sweeping rear window curve will become its signature. It will launch powered by 2.2 diesel and 3.0 litre V6 petrol engines. SW

8.15am: Skoda focus on Citigo 5dr
A quiet show for Skoda, with just a five-door version of the Citigo/Mii/Up triumvirate. Mind you, this car is big news for the Czechs: chief exec Winfried Wahland reports sales so far in 2012 of 147,500 vehicles. That's up 12%, driven largely by this new compact sector. But you can always tell when a company has little real news - they hire the services of a pop star. And here's a DJ brought in to spice things up and tell us how he 'loves the Citigo' Right TP

7.45am: Bugatti takes the roof off
Is it a case of starting with the car with the greatest horse power then working our way down? If so Tata will be last of the press conferences today (it isn't sadly). Bugatti President Wolfgang Dürheimer kicks things off in his native German, meinen Damen und Herren. I wish I studied harder for my GCSE (merely a grade C). He doesn't switch to English. Gulp! Never mind. The Bugatti Grand Sport Vitesse is unveiled to a subdued ripple of applause. It is 7.45 after all. Like the Super Sport it will produce an eye-watering 1183bhp from the 8.0-litre engine. Only 30 Super Sports were made and the Vitesse will be even more exclusive. Of the two on the stand one appears to be dressed in the Man City away kit. Appropriate as this car is very Prem footballer, very Balotelli. Perfect for Ocean Drive or Monaco but how will it work in Wythenshawe? SW

7.15am: Rendezvous
We arrive early doors, to grab our spot in the press room (it's like a Victorian land grab, all decorum out of the window) and prepare for the day ahead. The last time we counted, there were more than 100 debuts planned, dozens of press conferences and thousands of words to be written. I meet with our production chief Stephen Worthy and divvy up the 62 press conferences. Blackberry fingers ahoy! TP


MONDAY 5 MARCH 2012

11.59pm Infiniti teams up with... Lotus
Speaking of Lotus, I wonder if Carlos Ghosn should have been in that team huddle. The two firms have joined up to work on the new Infiniti Emerg-e concept car, a kind of Alfa 4C from Tokyo, San Diego, London, Bedfordshire and... Hethel. Considering how many chefs have been involved, the Emerg-e looks stunning: like a little, lithe Alfa 4C, but with the running gear of a Lotus Exige 414E, with a range-extender 1.2 three-pot. The embargo's finally lifted (after a string of leaks) but this one's definitely worth a closer look tomorrow. TP

10.07pm Lotus are in Geneva too
Walking across the foyer of my hotel, I spot Lotus CEO Dany Bahar holding court, with numerous of his entourage on set. Turns out Lotus has snaffled now-defunct Saab's stand space - taking the Brits out of the shadows and into the main part of the Palexpo arena at Geneva. They have something new to show us as well, but the lid is being kept on the story for another few hours yet. We're expecting a variant, not an all-new model. Or five, like at Paris two years ago... TP

9.04pm Volkswagen's eve-of-show shindig
Across town at VW's now traditional motor show within a motor show, the covers have been whisked off the usual high number of world premieres. The all-new launches are the controversial Bentley EXP 9 F SUV - surely nothing at Geneva will outstrip this for argument/fisticuffs - the new Audi A3 and a topless Lamborghini Aventador J concept. It's a broad stretch of brands and with most of its divisions hitting new records, it's hard not to see the VW colossus reaching that no.1 spot before 2018. TP

7.30pm The Mercedes A-class goes mainstream
Over to L'Espace Hippomene for the world debut of the new Mercedes A-class. Car manufacturers never fail to find some disused warehouse or urban zone to turn into a hipster's paradise for motor shows, and Merc has decked out this building into a trendy zone for the A-class unveiling. I'm surprised they let me in - I'm over 35 and possess neither asymmetrical hair nor an iPhone. Daimler chief Dieter Zetsche takes to the stage and gives a monologue without recourse to MCs or other execs, telling us how premium sales are soaring, about how the A-class segment will leap by 4 million units in the next decade and why the new one is so different. He likens its importance to the arrival of the Mercedes 190 in 1982. After some son et lumiere and contemporary dance, we see why: it's out with the old tallboy, and in with the lower, more conventional hatchback bodystyle. More like a Golf, A3 or 1-series, in other words. It's slicker than those 'leaked' patent sketches made me expect, though, with most of the concept car vibe intact. Dripping with tech, too, including standard radar-based collision avoidance, the option to use Siri on your iPhone, which integrates through the car display, and a nifty 99g/km on the B180 CDI. TP

4.30pm Arrive in Geneva
I land in Geneva on time having absorbed some thought-provoking stats in the Financial Times in transit: world oil prices have leaped 30% since October 2011, pushing US pump prices towards $4 a gallon. Small fry for us Brits, but the inexorable rise in oil prices - not to mention uncertainty in the Middle East - paints a bleak backdrop to the 2012 Geneva motor show. We've seen electrification of motor shows for years now, but never has it seemed more urgent. Yet Ferrari has unveiled its most powerful, all-petrol V12 ever and Bentley is about to launch a gas-guzzling 4x4. Gonna be fascinating to take the pulse of the industry this year, that's for sure. TP