Inicio AutoShows At Geneva Auto Show, China Dominated While Absentees Undermined Credibility

At Geneva Auto Show, China Dominated While Absentees Undermined Credibility

At Geneva Auto Show, China Dominated While Absentees Undermined Credibility

A quick glance at the Geneva Auto Show might have persuaded jittery Europeans that the real or imagined existential threat to its iconic automotive industry by China’s manufacturers had already happened.

After all, of the 23 European and World premieres of new mainly electric sedans and SUVs unveiled at what was once an annual show, about a third were Chinese, while half of European debutants were from China, according to the show organizers.

Only one major European, Renault of France and its Dacia value-brand, appeared. The rest decided this traditional auto show concept was past its sell-by date. Renault CEO Luca de Meo duly grabbed his time in the spotlight to launch a new electric car, the 5, and publicize his plan for an “Airbus for Cars”. This seeks to save Europe from China’s expected imports of small urban electric runabouts by mobilizing a pan-continental structure to stave off potentially fatal blows to European manufacturers.

BYD was the most active participant, introducing the Seal plug-in hybrid and the big Tang 7-seater SUV, plus vehicles from its upmarket brands Denza and Yangwang. Denza was set up more than 10 years ago with Mercedes. BYD now owns 90%.

SAIC’s MG, unveiled its little “3” hybrid which promises to be a big seller. MG is the most successful Chinese brand in Europe so far. Last year Chinese brands sold just over 350,000 sedans and SUVs in Europe, mainly electric ones. MG led the way with 239,000 mainly EVs, about double 2022’s total.

Other debutants were mainly specialty outfits with the Microlino now being launched across Europe. The Microlino looks like a throwback to the old Isetta bubble car made by BMW back in the 1950s.

The Geneva Car Show in the spring used to be a crucial annual event for the global industry to showcase its newest and best ideas to Europeans. It was followed by biennial shows in Paris or Frankfurt in the fall. But the Covid pandemic brought this routine to a close in 2020. Paris has tried to re-establish itself, while the Frankfurt show took on a new life in Munich.

At its peak, the Geneva show attracted crowds of about 600,000 over 10 days and up to 10,000 journalists. This time, the show, which ended March 3 and now calls itself the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS), said 168,000 visitors attended and there were 2,000 accredited journalists.

The Covid pandemic cancellations coincided with a feeling in the industry that traditional car shows had become too expensive and the format didn’t work anymore. What was the point of spending millions of dollars on expensive launches which attracted the attention of the world’s media for about 15 minutes, before another burst of hype and bluster drowned out all thoughts of the previous one? Online and new media offered the chance for more targeted launches which would be far cheaper and allowed manufacturers to choose the timing that coincided with their launch timetables.

Chester Springs, Pennsylvania-based Auto Forecast Solutions analyst Sam Fiorani agrees, but concedes the old format might have some life yet.

“Corporate decisions have been to focus on private introductions for the media and to dedicate more of their marketing toward social media rather than in-person displays for the public. It remains to be seen if this is the proper direction, but the pendulum is likely to swing back toward some representation at shows like Geneva in the future,” Fiorani said in AFS’s March report.

The Geneva show wasn’t much of a guide to new cars being launched in 2024. These include the new BMW Mini Cooper EV, a new Skoda Kodiaq compact SUV with gasoline, diesel or plug-in hybrid choices, and the Cupra Tavascan an electric SUV. Cupra is a new Volkswagen brand, gradually replacing SEAT. A formidable list of new EVs this year includes the big VW ID.7, which will compete with the BMW i5 and Mercedes EQE, the Kia EV9, Hyundai Ioniq 5 N, and the little Renault 5 E-Tech. A new BMW 2 series comes with either combustion power, (X2), or the electric iX2.

Perhaps GIMS will regain its former glory. For this reporter, who first attended a Geneva show back in the early 1990s, it was always an ironic location. Because Geneva is such a small town, at the first hint of rush hour the traffic becomes more like a car park. The only reliable way to get to the Palexpo Exhibition Halls close to Geneva Airport while the show was on? Take the train from the town center.