12.15pm: Infiniti press conference – a deal with Red Bull and the Etherea
BW The good news is that the Etherea looks a great deal better in the metal than in the pictures we’ve seen. What I initially thought looked oddly blobby and bulbous looks engagingly low and lithe in reality. So what is the Etherea really all about? Well, it’s Infiniti’s upmarket take on the huge competitive (and profitable) volume hatch market currently dominated by the Golf and Focus. But rather than simply create a top-end Japanese version of a Golf or an A3 (trad hatch layout) Infiniti has pushed the design boat out into deep waters and brought together elements of a hatch, an MPV and a saloon. It also sits on the Renault-Nissan alliance’s front-drive platform that underpins the Megane and Qashqai, making it Infiniti’s first fwd car. Developed over the last 18 months specifically for this Geneva show, it’s powered by a 2.5-litre supercharged four-cylinder engine, good for 245bhp, mated to an electric emissions-free motor, the two driving a CVT ‘box. Infiniti is exceptionally keen to boost sales from 145,000 this year to 165,000 next year, and sees the A3/Golf segment as key to this expansion. So when it arrives in 2014, the Etherea will be a global car, selling in Europe, America and the Far East. But what you see now will not be what you get then. Infiniti has been pretty candid about using the car’s looks to gauge opinion. ‘If it’s positive, we’ll build it,’ says design boss Shiro Nakamura, ‘and if not, then we won’t. It’s a open clinic.’ What we will see coming through in the next generation of Infiniti models are those piercing eye-like headlamps, and enhanced emphasis on the C-pillar kink. ‘The FX was iconic, a real segment buster. We want the Etherea to be the same.’ And in other news, Infiniti confirmed its new deal as a technical partner with Red Bull Racing, a deal Infiniti vice president Andy Palmer called ‘an exhilarating partnership.’ Read all about it here
12.10pm: Citroen press conference – the DS4 Purple phase
MH On my latest slog back across Palexpo I’m wishing I’d bought a pair of running shoes and made a workout playlist, instead of trying to look businesslike and carrying camera equipment. I arrive at Citroen partway through their conference – the two parallel tracks on the schedule have been thrown out of synch by the VW empire’s various presentations running late, causing a deal of frustration to go with my perspiration. The big news for me wasn’t today’s DS4 Purple, but yesterday’s joint announcement with BMW that Citroen parent firm PSA will invest €100 million on a hybrid technolgy joint venture. I find a translation headset and catch the remainder of the speech (in French, naturally) mentioning the importance of China, now Citroen’s number two market. The massive Metropolis limousine concept from last year’s Shanghai Motor Show is unveiled, then it’s all change again. I need to get to the press centre. Beyond Hall 1. I need an EV to test-drive right about now…
12.10pm: Mitsubishi press conference – new Global Small
TP Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko unveils the new five-door 3700mm long Global Small concept. Although they deny it, it’ll replace the Colt when it arrives in spring 2012 (the Colt is phased out in late 2012). The petrol 1.0 and 1.2 stop-start manage sub 100g/km and an EV version of the supermini arrives in 2013. It’ll be one of eight planned Mitsubishi EVs and plug-in hybrids by 2015. This is a concept but looks close to what we’ll see at Tokyo this autumn. Looks slick.
11.50am: Saab press conference – it’s the Phoenix concept
MH Back again to Hall 2, where I should be seeing a presentation from the brand that will not die. However, it’s GM Europe, Saab’s old owners, working their way through the presentation of the new Zafira Tourer. I’m keen to see the new car, but try to get a better location to view Saab’s presentation instead. Thus I may never know why the Vauxhall/Opel video screens show design boss Mark Adams talking from what appears to be an igloo. Main news at Saab is chief designer Jason Castriota’s debut concept car, the hybrid Phoenix three-door coupe. The covers come off and I’m struggling to find the Saab essence in a busy styling exercise that seems to reference all of Castriota’s trademark design cues and previous vehicles than the Swedish firm’s own design history. Owner Victor Muller also explains his rationale for selling Spyker to Coventry-based CPP and its owner Vladimir Antonov – it was the best option for Spyker to find the additional investment capital needed to expand its model range, versus attempting to raise the funds with the estimated 22% dilution of existing shares required in a public stock offer.
11.30am: Aston Martin press conference – it’s the new Virage
MH By the time I get to Aston’s booth in Hall 5 Dr Ulrich Bez has already started his presentation. Even though I’m stuck in the Ford booth at the back of the media crowd (again), the Aston boss is clearly visible thanks to his habit of making his presentation from on top of a box as if he’s at Speaker’s Corner. Key themes in the Aston Martin press conference: the versatility of the aluminium VH platform, which allows the profitable production of the multitude of models in the current range (step forward, new Virage). The continuing relevance of internal-combustion engines to provide go-anywhere freedom not available with EVs. The Cygnet’s role as a ‘hybrid’ in conjunction with owning an existing Aston Martin to provide a lower-emissions, fuel-efficient option for driving in town. Dr Bez is reading his speech from a smartphone. When he loses his place on the diminutive device he uses it as an opportunity to remind us that electronics aren’t the solution to everything. I’d like to agree, but feel I should counter with, ‘neither is yet another variation on the DB9’.
11.20am: Subaru press conference – the RWD concept
MH I waited and waited for the Subaru press conference, but in the end having walked from Hall 5 to Hall 2, it was back to Hall 5 again for Aston Martin. While I applaud Subaru’s use of transparency in presenting their boxer sports car architecture (twinned with the Toyota FT86) it is disappointing that Subaru didn’t have even a model of the car’s exterior design on display. The 2010 Impreza concept was back on stage, but we’d already met in Paris last year so no need to be reacquainted.
11.15am: Renault press conference – two new concept cars
TP Renault design chief Laurens van den Acker is running the show chez Renault. Dressed in his customary baseball boots, he’s speaking fluent French and, as the interpreter’s PA is screwed, I’m following him in my A-level French. The Dezir sports car concept is centre stage, flanked by the two newcomers. The Captur is a Juke-esque crossover, while the R-Space is a look at the future for Renault’s MPVs. Although the name sounds suspiciously like Espace in French, it is in fact looking ahead at a midi-MPV to replace the Scenic, CAR understands. They also price the Twizy ZE: it’ll cost a very affordable EU6990 before local government tax breaks, and you’ll lease the battery for EU72 per month. The electric cars are centre stage at Renault, but van den Acker is at great pains to point out that they’re reinventing the brand through design too. He’ll be hoping his new products can match the success of the Renault 4, celebrating its golden anniversary this year. Renault built 8m of them. Not sure the EVs will hit quite that number, but if he can inject some more passion into the mainstream products – the new Laguna, for instance – then he could be onto a winner. The brace of concept cars look warm in their mellow honey hues. Here’s to a bolder Renault future.
10.45am: Morgan press conference – old is new at Morgan again
MH I didn’t see them pop the Freemont pimple but had much more fun at the antithesis of Fiat’s massed ranks of spokesmodels and carefully tailored stand designs. Charles Morgan beckoned a small but universally-grinning crowd of not only bearded but also clean shaven men to listen to a concise introduction to the reborn Morgan Three-Wheeler. Now powered by a Harley-Davidson V-twin engine across the nose, and sending power rearwards through a manual gearbox shared with the MX-5, the new cycle-car will achieve 50mpg, and has a handy 400 mile range. ‘Don’t just drive it to the shops, drive it across countries!’ says Charles. There are two machines on display, and it’s easy to believe Morgan’s claim that the design team have an average age under 30 by the way they’ve done their WW2 RAF tribute paint scheme. Clearly not of the Airfix model and Commando comics generation with those stencilled letters on the side. Unlike the IBX though, I would like to have one of these very much. It’s the perfect solution for someone like me, who is motorcycle-tempted but wants something convenient to just drive, rather than dealing with the learner license regime and higher accident risk profile of having a motorcycle.
10:35am: Fiat press conference – the Freemont lands
MH It’s a bit chaotic over at Fiat, as the Dodge, err, Fiat Freemont sits under what looks like a giant inflatable zit ready to burst. The Turin-based firm is hyping-up the fleetwide low CO2 levels that the frugal little Fiat range contribute towards. ‘Air Technologies’ is the new overall brand for eco-sensitive technologies such as Multiair engines. As well as contrasting the 500 Twinair with the historic Mestopheles racing car’s 3200g/km CO2 rating, Fiat launched Gucci and Zagato versions of the 500. Then, amidst talk of Gucci merchandise and levitating Zagato domes, I had to leave, for a very important press conference back in Hall 6. I almost walked into the entourage forming a perimeter around Sergio Marchionne and Luca di Montezemolo on the way out.
10.30am: Maserati press conference – Banging the drum
BW Maserati boss Harald Wester sounded confident when he sounded off on Maserati’s performance in 2010 – it sold 5800 cars across the globe, 20% up on 2009, with sales in America up 47% and in UK similarly buoyant at 46% better than 2009. Wester also sounded chuffed to bits to announce that after six seasons, Maserati finally won the FIA GT1 championship with its MC12 GT1 supercar-turned-racecar. The company will continue its rapid global expansion plans, with outlets in Syria, India and Russia among others, bringing the tally of market s up to 64 countries. Turnover was up 30% to €580m, but profit was a surprisingly low €24m. As well as the seductive Grancabrio Sport, Wester talked about the upcoming Quattroporte replacement, due to bow in at Frankfurt, a new SUV based on the Grand Cherokee (!…) due in 2014 and a junior Quattroporte to take on the E-Class/5-series/A6. Maserati – small but busy, then.
10.15am: Smart press conference – the Forspeed
MH On the way to Mercedes I’d seen the Smart booth bereft of its headline concept car, the Forspeed. It was parked at Mercedes, and launched with a typical indie hipster music video to grab yoof appeal for the stubby litte speedster. Smart is making larger strides into the electro-mobility business, having recently sold-out of the 2500-unit pilot run of Smart Fortwo EVs, and the Forspeed offers hints at how a production next-generation Fortwo EV will look. ‘With windows and a roof at no extra charge’, quips CEO Dr. Annette Winkler. And perhaps some shared technology with new partners Renault-Nissan on the EV front?
10:10am: Ferrari press conference – the FF
TP Ferrari has moved its stand down to where Alfa used to be, so I’m late to the Fiat fold. The FF shooting brake looks magnificent in red, I’m completely sold on this new kind of Ferrari – it’s a bold step and I fail to see how it can’t prosper. Ferrari bigwig Luca de Montezemolo is gladhanding Fiat group chairman Sergio Marchionne, wearing his trademark baggy jumper (I even catch him buffing the FF’s paint with his sweater). I stand next to Tata chief Ratan Tata and ask if his Jag proteges could launch such a thing as the FF. ‘I’d love to do something like this – Ferrari do it so well. What’s that?’ he asks, pointing at the 458 Italia next door. Then Luca waves at Tata and the humble Tata boss is invited from the cheap seats up on stage. I’ve met Tata before and he’s always so polite and unassuming. You’d never know he’s an international powerhouse. I’ll be back at Ferrari later today for a one-on-one with Amedeo Felisa. More news on that interview later.
10.00am: Jeep press conference – The very bad, and the surprisingly good
BW Turn away now for the bad. Jeep had its Compass on the stand, and boy is it a dog. With its flat-topped wheelarches, the softroader looks slabby, frumpy and not dissimilar to the previous generation Kia Sportage. Just not as good-looking. The Patriot is barely any better. Just who are these cars aimed at in Europe? Better instead to turn to the new diesel-powered Grand Cherokee. It may still feature a lot of chrome and right-angles, but this lantern-jawed off-roader now has a definite whiff of luxury about it. And with its Fiat-sourced V6 turbo diesel engine, it could prove a bit of a sleeper hit in Europe. Surprisingly likeable as a decent alternative to the Range Rover Sport, no?
10.00am: Mercedes-Benz press conference – the C-class Coupe
MH Back to the far end of Hall 6. I wish I’d installed a pedometer app on my iPhone, which is taking its sweet time sending email as I trudge across Palexpo again. Dr Dieter Zetsche opens the half-hour Daimler group show (Mercedes and Smart, but there’s never a Maybach press conference these days) with a 1904 Mercedes simplex. To the mustachioed Mercedes exec the vintage Mercedes reflects the qualities of refinement and performance found in the current range – although thankfully crank-handle starters are a thing of the past. Mercedes has had an excellent 2010 and plans for its best financial year ever in 2011, the 125th anniversary year of Mercedes-Benz. A quick mention of the F-Cell B-class, currently embarked on a drive round the world challenge. Dr. Z claims it demonstrates fuel cell tech is ready – it’s just time for the hydrogen infrastructure to catch up. There are three debuts for Europe – the new SLK, presented like his career depended on it by Mercedes DTM and F1 test driver Gary Paffett; the facelifted C-class from Detroit and new C-Class Coupe presented with a similar sense of obligation by the world champion German womens’ football team. Between an SLK emphasising efficiency and safety, womens’ soccer and being served quiche at the conclusion of the press conference, I think that noise I heard was the sound of EVO writers running scared for the manly Merc sanctuary of Brabus.
9.45am: Alfa Romeo press conference – Alfa baby 8C
BW Alfa’s delightful little 4C is even more engaging in the metal. The dinky two-seater Centro Stile-styled coupe, resplendent in matt red and draped with two leggy, almost-clothed models, looks just the way you’d expect a pint-sized 8C to look – squat, chunky and packed with delightful details and flourishes. And the news gets even better when we’re told it will arrive in showrooms before the end of next year. The lightweight Alfa weighs in at under 850kg, and is powered by a version of Alfa’s blown 1.7-litre Giulietta fourpot. It drives the rear wheels through a beefed up variant of the company’s dual-clutch transmission, and Alfa claims a 150mph plus top speed and a five second sprint to 60mph. Next year’s most wanted sub-£40k coupe? Damn right…
9.30am: Toyota press conference – the FT-86 II and a Yaris hybrid
TP Toyota drone on about their hybrids, and you can see why. Where rivals are only just launching their first petrol-electrics, Toyota has been selling them for 14 years and they’ve flogged 3 million. Now it’s time to join the Jazz Hybrid with a Yaris HSD, shown today in concept form. It’s the new Yaris we’ll see this summer, and the Yaris HSD Hybrid will go on sale looking very like this in 2012. It’s a shrunken Auris, although more pert. No word yet on its figures or powertrain details. If you want more space, pick the new Prius Plus, Europe’s take on the Prius V unveiled in Detroit. Unlike the US one, ours will have space for seven seats thanks to the more compact lithium battery pack moving between the front seats. Europe’s marketing vice president Miguel Fonseca tells CAR that the number of Toyota buyers considering a hybrid as their next car has doubled to 16%. ‘We will have the models for them,’ he says. But he’s equally enthusiastic about the FT-86 II concept car. It’s virtually the real thing, the RWD boxer-engined sports car that lands in 2012. It’ll drop the FT bit of the name but keep the 86 bit apparently. Subaru will build it, and that boxer engine will keep the nose low. ‘There’s been a six-year gap since the MR2 and Celica – our dealers are crying out for a car like this,’ says Fonseca. ‘We are confident we can reconnect with our fanbase.’ Sadly, still no more word on the mechancial spec. We’ll know more at the Tokyo show this autumn.
9.00am: Seat press conference – the IBX, or not
MH VW finally finishes baking the press corps across the aisle under the harsh glare of its whiter-than-white lighting, and we can hear from troubled Spanish branch of the VW empire. Things start off with a promotional video that initially must have seemed clever, but makes my mind wander. ‘We’re Spanish and German, Passionate and Meticulous… good-looking and great personality, assertive but a good listener, fun-loving but mature, desperate and dateless…’ James Muir, the British CEO of the Spanish-and German firm, stops the video and beckons the IBX crossover concept on to the stage. It’s an understated, crisply-styled thing in the Seat way (Mediterranean style by a Belgian) and carries the all-important low-CO2 eco-friendly powerplant, but doesn’t shout ‘buy me!’ Yet this is new Seat, and its new philosophy of ‘enjoyneering’. A newspeak phrase I like, if only because of the disdainful reactions it might inspire some of our more learned and inventive CAR Online readers to share in the comments section.
8.45am: Volkswagen press conference – going topless and camping
BW In a rather atypical display of timekeeping, Voklswagen’s vast blue and white stand had to delay its press conference by 15 minutes while Skoda next door finished pulling the wraps off its Concept Vision D car, leaving the Wolfsburg royalty hot and sweaty in the front row. First the new Tiguan was wheeled out (yawn…) followed by the rather snappy looking new Golf Convertible. With its low fabric roof and fast A-pillar, it certainly looked nifty and neat, helped by an incredibly OTT stage set full of impossibly young, healthy, smiling and tanned people sashaying around on their rollerblades and bikes to Jamiriquai’s (check spelling please) ear-bleedingly loud Lovefool. But it was the Bulli concept car that drew the crowds. Looking like a 1960s splittie that had been put through a hot wash, it looked cuddly, practical and stylish all in one. I hate camping, but even I rather liked the idea of chipping down to the beach in this for a day out of a Boden catalogue.
8.40am: Mini press conference – honey I shrunk the Mini
MH At least I get a primo spot for Ian Robertson’s Mini show, with the Rocketman concept sitting in a box like a Matchbox car. ‘English…English…English…’ chants the translation headset while waiting to begin. A record 234000 cars sold in 2010 and 30000 sold year to date. Mini Cooper SD spec debuts in Countryman form, bringing 114g/km to the fat five door arsenal of tricks. Then the Rocketman is unboxed like a diecast model. Whethet the bloke sitting in it when the packaging comes off was meant to be there or trapped overnight I can’t tell. New Mini design chief Anders Warming appears on stage brandishing a snowboard. The Rocketman is an interesting shape – I like the dual-fold doors. The Juke-like wheel arches less so.
8.30am Skoda press conference – the new Vision D
TP Skoda is in bullish mood. Sales were a record 762,000 in 2010, up 12%, and they show no sign of slowing down. ‘By 2018 we will sell at least 1.5 million vehicles every year,’ pledges CEO Winfried Vahland. Incremental new models are key. Vahland doesn’t say it, but sources on the stand tell CAR there will be two new Skodas in 2012: an Up-based city car and a new hatch to slot between Fabia and Octavia. Skoda’s Focus then. The Vision D is a peek at that car, as well as a look ahead to 2013’s Octavia. It’s a clean design and I like the front end with its bold expressive face, the badge moved to the metal of the bonnet. Chief designer Jozef Kaban promises Skoda won’t lose sight of its core values. ‘We’re about spaciousness, authenticity, precision – but we want more emotion.’ And that new Skoda emblem? It’s Mr Skoda’s favourite American Indian head dress reimagined for the new decade: faster, more aerodynamic and with more focus on the future-looking eye. So now we know.
8.20am: BMW press conference – Vision Connected Drive
MH It must be a cruel joke that sees me having to go all the way from the far corner of hall 1 to the far end of hall 6, after VW group stuffing around gives me approx 1 minute to get to BMW. I catch a glimpse from the back of the scrum of the Vision Connected Drive roadster concept unveil, grab a headset to tune in to the German press talk ( blah blah blah sustainability blah blah blah connectivity blah blah JOY blah blah blah). The sharky Vision ConnectedDrive is not meant for production – it’s a rolling showcase of BMW Connected Drive, a range of active & passive safety features like night vision and collision avoidance among 50 innovative solutions.
8.15am: Bentley press conference – ice driving and going green
BW Wolfgang Duerheimer may have only just got his feet under his desk at Bentley but he was well into the Bentley way this morning, peppering his chipper speech with the obligatory references to the Bentley Boys, Brooklands and all thingsd with a winged B. As usual at Geneva, Bentley underlined its eco-credentials, highlighting that 90 percent of its production last year was flexfuel-friendly. Sounds good, until you realise that the figure for 2009 was much the same. Still that hasn’t stopped Crewe from exceeding its goal of achieving a 15% cut in CO2 emisisons across its fleet. Enough boring green stuff – far more interseting was the unveil of the limited run of 100 Supersports Ice Speed Record Convertible, issued to celebrate Juha Kankkunen’s ballistic 205.48 run over sheet ice. The four time world rally champ undertook the high-speed record breaking run last month at the Bay of Bothnia in Finland, and the 631bhp Supersport will be the most powerful iteration of the company’s W12 engine to date. Kankkunen was wheeled out, hailed as a ‘new Bentley Boy’ and posed for endless pictures. Despite the fact the he must have the biggest set of balls in modern motoring, it was interesting to note that he walked quite normally….
8.10am: Lamborghini press conference – the Aventador bows in
TP We’re running late already, as Audi overrun by eight minutes. Lambo boss Stephan Winkelmann looks at his watch, and then the V12 installation in front of him. I wait with Gavin Green, and we eye the wedgy missile under the dust wraps in front of us. Winkelmann is soon strutting his stuff, whisking the covers off with usual Italian aplomb. He hails the new Aventador as a modern great, worthy of the lineage: 350 GT, Miura, Countach, Diablo, Murcielago… ‘This car really jumps two generations,’ he says, explaining the intracacies of its carbon tub and new V12. ‘Lamborghinis are about performance and design. This car takes inspiration from fighter jets.’ He told us last night of its 2.9sec 0-62mph time (‘like bungee jumping’) and it’s the first production car to feature pushrod suspension like in F1. You’ll have a long queue to buy one; it’s already sold out for a year.
8.00am: Audi press conference – the new A3 Concept
MH Dynamic is the theme at Audi, starting with dynamic women (Rupert Stadtler’s words, not mine) as Michele Mouton and daughter drive on stage in the RS3. Think that officially makes your favorite recent Audi a girl’s car, Mr. Pulman. The new A3 concept takes the stage and Stefan Sielaf begins talking about how it’ll inform the new 2012 A3 and appeal to Americans when I glance at my watch. VW group are running late and I have to get to BMW. Spot colleague Ben Whitworth looking dapper as usual as he writes his commentary.
7.30am: Porsche press conference – the Panamera Hybrid S is unveiled
BW Despite the early seven-thirty start, the Porsche stand was rammed with bleary-eyed journalists. Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche’s head of development made an unusual arrival – at the wheel of a replica of the 111-year old Porsche Semper Vivus, the world’s first hybrid car. Why? To underline the company’s eco heritage – and the unveil of the new Panamera S Hybrid. It’s still dog ugly, but the 380bhp petrol-electric Panamera posts some impressive figures – 159g\km CO2, 168mph top speed and a six second sprint to 62mph and 39.8mpg. Bernd Maier, sales and marketing boss runs through some equally impressive sales figures – Porsche racked up 97,267 sales last year, up a hefty 27 percent over 2009, with the Panamera accounting for a hefty 30,000 of those sales. Our advice – have a quick look at the Panamera if you must, but do have a gawp at the Semper and the 918RSR – a lot has changed in 111 years.
7.30am: The Geneva motor show is go
SJH The first press conference is underway: Porsche. Come back every quarter of an hour or so for updates throughout the day.
6.25am: The doors open
TP We’re heading over to Palexpo for the first press day. We’re trying to focus the Live Blog on the action, and will deliver one concentrated blast from each press conference. So expect the news, pictures and analysis live from each stand today. Stay with us for a shock new Alfa Romeo, our first look at the new Subaru RWD coupe and the world debut of the Ferrari FF to name but three. It’s going to be one helluva day!
Monday 28 February 2011 – the eve of the 2011 Geneva motor show
10.00pm: Mercedes preview party – it’s all about the AMGs
MH Mercedes-Benz has whisked a contingent of media off to L’espace Hippomene, an exhibition venue in the former Elna sewing machine factory. Although as AMG boss Ola Kallenius puts it, tonight it’s a performance machine factory – hosting the media launch of the revised 2011 C63 range. You would be forgiven for forgetting that the C-class was facelifted at the Detroit motor show, and now it’s AMG’s turn, installing their 6.2-litre V8 and MCT transmission into the tweaked C-class shell. Saloon and wagon are on display, but there’s a preview in store – the new C63 Coupe. I tried taking a sneaky cameraphone shot (photos are banned) but before I could upload it over the free wi-fi (cruel to offer the door to the internet and ban photos, AMG!) a security guard insisted I delete the pic. So you will just have to imagine the new C-class Coupe, complete with its ‘not-hoffmeister kink’ c-pillar, in AG whiter-than-white, wearing C63 sportswear. It’s not a difficult concept to imagine, but one that will be released officially later in the month.
8.57pm: VW preview – the boss Martin Winterkorn speaks
TP Martin Winterkorn takes to the stage to wrap up the VW preview evening. He’s in buoyant mood and claims 2010 was the best ever in the company’s history. The group sold 7.2 million vehicles, almost a million more than in 2009. Operating profit quadrupled to €7.1 billion. And they’re busy buying 8% of carbonfibre tech specialist SGL Carbon SE. CAR Online users are sometimes critical of the VW collosus, but you’ve got to applaud the group’s ambition. Will they make it to number one by 2018, their stated intent? The next few years will be crucial. Tonight has shown a glimpse into the near future, and the new model offensive shows no sign of abating. We haven’t seen any huge technological leaps this year, though, and stylistically the VW Group is going to have to police its brands more carefully than ever before. It’s telling that they couldn’t fit all their new launches into one evening. Tomorrow we’ll see the new A3 concept and VW Golf cabrio in the metal. Log on tomorrow for more Geneva motor show news as it happens.
8.49pm: VW preview – the new Volkswagen Bulli
TP VW announces a new Bulli, a sort of baby Microbus. Looks like a boxy Up, very squared-off, seats six. Retro two-tone paintwork emphasises the backward nod and just check out that enormous VW badge on the snout! It’s an EV, with a 40kW lithium battery. Walter de Silva, design chief, says: ‘The new Kombi is where our past and future meet. There’s a lot of space, in very compact dimensions. It’s a very simple design too.’ Once the conference is over, we get up close and personal to the Bulli and learn plenty more. ‘It’s related to the Up, but is wider and 4m long. There is an intention to launch something like this in the B-MPV segment.’ I’m not surprised: this car looks ready to go. The door seals, switchgear, hinges – it all looks like a production car in waiting. It’s a far cry from the hermetically sealed Seat IBX next door. The three-abreast seating reminds us of the Multipla, and it works brilliantly. There is no centre console, and the floor is entirely flat. Don’t expect leather floors on any production version, however. De Silva tells me this is not a retro car, but operates in a space where old meets new. I think they could be on to a winner with this. The days of classical retro are over; this is a progressive modern car and we applaud it.
8.40pm: Bentley preview – the ice speed record racer
TP A quiet showing from Bentley, who announce an ice speed record edition of the Conti Supersports to mark their recent 205mph on black ice in the Arctic. Just 100 will be built. It’s easy to dismiss the Conti, but getting close up to the record breaker on stage is a fascinating exercise. I’m struck by the ludicrousness of it, but those bread-board-flat wheel trims and headlamps stickers do lend a certain seriousness to this footballers’ favourite. CAR was on hand at the record attempt, more of which later.
8.35pm: Giugiaro Italdesign – the Tex coupe and an SUV
TP Giorgetto Giugiaro himself joins VW design bigwig Walter de Silva on stage to explain why Wolfsburg has bought into his design agency. It’s all about giving a fresh perspective for VW – an outsider’s look in. ‘They will remain autonomous,’ says De Silva. And so there will be two concepts at Geneva tomorrow. One is on stage now: a stubby sub Scirocco coupe called the Tex (it’s named after an Italian cartoon character). It’s only 3990mm long and looks like a VW Golf by Alfa. Surely not a hint of what a future VW-owned Alfa could do? If anything, this could be a cool Seat hatch, if you ask me. It’ s hybrid powered ‘with simple, timeless lines,’ enthuses Giugiaro. There will be a separate 4m long SUV EV tomorrow, but no sign of it here tonight. I reckon they could be onto something with this Giugiaro Italdesign tie-up. The man’s clearly a genius.
8.30pm: Skoda preview – the new Skoda Vision D
TP Skoda’s rebranding and they flash up a modishly funked-up Skoda badge. We hope they don’t lose the functional, utilitarian vibe of the product line-up too. And here’s a pointer to what’s coming up: the new Vision D. It looks suspiciously like the new Octavia, and CEO Winfried Vahland makes clear this will influence future product. With a name like that, is it clearly slap bang in Mondeo, D-segment territory? Apparently it also refers to D for Design. The front end is dramatic, with a much wider grille. It looks like Skoda v3.0. The back end? To be honest, it looks a bit Audi as the concept rushes past. Let’s hope all VW Group products don’t converge. ‘From 2012 we will show a new model every six months on average,’ reveals Vahland. Sounds like Skoda is going to be busy.
8.25pm: Lamborghini preview – the Aventador LP700-4 arrives
TP After the leaks, the endless previews, finally the new Lambo V12 arrives. The leaked name is correct, it’s named after a famous fighting bull from 1993, according to CEO Stephan Winkelmann. It’s interesting he calls the styling ‘evolutionary’ – how do you replace the Murcielago? It’s quick: 219mph, 2.9sec to 62mph, 691bhp. Cleaner too – CO2 tumbles by a fifth. It looks low and mean, but Winkelmann’s driven it on and off stage so fast we struggle to get a good view. Sounds awesome, though. It has to if it’s to match the Murcie’s guttural bark.
8.10pm: Bugatti preview – Veyron nearly sold out
TP They roll a Bugatti 75 SE Atlanta out on to stage. A touch disappointing as it’s hiding behind mirrors and we half expect a new surprise. New boss Wolfgang Durheimer says one of these sold in 2008 for $7.8 million. ‘Perhaps the Veyron will one day command such premiums too,’ he gushes. Outgoing CEO Franz-Josef Paefgen adds that only six of the planned 300-run of Veyrons remain unsold. Which means it can’t be too long before a properly new Buagtti is shown.
8.05pm: Seat preview – the IBX Spanish crossover
TP Seat chief Jim Muir shows off his excellent German by welcoming the new IBX crossover concept in the language of the night. We might be in French-speaking Switzerland, but it’s all German here in Wolfsburg by Genf. Plenty of cringeworthy videos of cool young Spaniards being hip in Barcelona, and the the IBX rolls in. It’s like a Ford Kuga, very clean surfaces, crisp lines. Boss James Muir says it’s a plug-in hybrid and pumps out less than 70g/km of CO2 while achieving 97.4mpg. We cringe when we hear his parting shot about Seat’s ‘Enjoyeering’. Seat wants in on the SUV market and we expect the IBX could have real production intent. It’s telling, however, that this concept has blacked-out windows and looks more fragile than other concepts on show here tonight. Remember the Seat Tribu concept of 2007? We’re still waiting.
7.55pm: Porsche preview – the cleanest Porsche yet is the Panamera Hybrid
TP It’s a strange world where the cleanest car in your range is a whopping great big limo. But the Panamera S Hybrid drives onto the stage after an original 1900 Lohner Porsche, the first living example of a hybrid. The Panam must be cleaner – the air is thick with hydrocarbons after the classic puffs off stage. Amidst some spectacular Cirque du Soleil style acrobatics, the 380bhp, 159g/km Panamera sits there stodgily. Can’t knock the 42mpg claimed average consumption though.
7.50pm: Audi preview – why your next Audi will drive itself
TP Audi shows its driverless TT – the one that drove up Pikes Peak last year. On its own. Chairman Rupert Stadler says the new Audi Connect project aims to link more and more networked IT systems so the driverless car could become a reality ‘sooner than you might think’. No sign of the A3 concept – or a rumoured additional surprise. Turns out that Audi couldn’t be bothered to show the A3 sedan tonight, we’ll have to wait for that car to arrive on Tuesday morning. The saloon is aimed squarely at China and the US, although it will come to the UK as well (it’ll only make up a tenth of A3 sales in Britain).
7.15pm: Off to Volkswagen for the L’Esprit des Marques party
TP On the way to the big pre-Geneva VW Group party, but the traffic is chaos. Geneva epitomises the dilemma facing cities all over Europe, and the world. It’s traffic bedlam and I can’t help thinking the scores of Panameras and Phaetons pulling up at the Halle Espace Secheron are overkill. Unveils tonight include the new V12 Lambo and a Skoda design concept, but with the queues ahead I’m bound to get stuck near the back. Will have to politely push my way through the crowds.
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