What really goes on back stage at Geneva

Published: 05 March 2012

The 2012 Geneva motor show opens to the press tomorrow. Anyone remotely interested in cars will know that this means a hundred or so new cars will be unveiled within the space of about 12 hours. You will be deafened by the howl of marketing spin, as manufacturers clamour for your attention in order to perform the perennial conjuring trick involving selling you a dull car by distracting you with an implausible auto-bauble running on 24-inch wheels.

All the top bosses of all the world’s car makers will be arriving in Geneva today. Plane spotters training their glasses on Geneva Airport’s single concrete runway (designated 05/23) will see a procession of Jetstreams landing, interspersed with the odd Easyjet 737 packed with motoring journalists. Because, make no mistake, EVERY motoring journalist on Earth has to be at the Geneva show (or, to give its other name, a free skiing holiday).

But what actually happens on press day at the show? It’s a secret ritual worthy of the Masons themselves, and I don’t want to be blackballed. But, off the record, here’s a list of 12 things that will definitely have happened in Geneva by this time tomorrow:

1. The VW Group will have held a lavish party to showcase how tremendous it is.

2. As a result of this party (and the ‘nightcap in the hotel bar’ afterwards) a handful of motoring journalists will have missed the first few press conferences the following day or, in two cases, will not have made it to the show at all.

3. There will have been unprecedented early-morning interest in the Citroën stand because they were serving coffee and croissants (when the croissants run out, so do the press).

4. There will have been about 30 speeches by industry bosses, none of which will have contained anything interesting enough to quote in any self-respecting news story. These will nonetheless have been widely quoted.

5. There will have been a major power failure in the press room.

6. Audi will have launched eight new models (NB: this is true of any given 24 hours, motor show or no motor show).

7. About 50 senior motoring journalists will have independently wondered to themselves why they were made to jump through hoops to get press accreditation when the hall appears to be full of schoolchildren, housewives, vagrants and spotty kids who run motoring blogs from their bedrooms.

8. There will have been unprecedented lunchtime interest in the Seat stand because they were serving San Miguel and paella, while po-faced BMW had a lavish bar serving only non-alcoholic Bavarian beer.

9. Audi will have spent more money on their show stand than any other manufacturer.

10. Gavin Green will have interviewed everybody in the entire room.

11. A journalist, possibly from Greece or perhaps Italy, will have been taken to hospital suffering from exhaustion brought about by having walked 28 miles in the show hall.

12. No member of the public will have been allowed anywhere near the place (they get their chance later, but let’s face it, it’s not about THEM).

There. And remember, you didn’t hear it from me…

By Greg Fountain

CAR's former managing editor, editor, caption chiseller, noticer of ironies