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Geneva Motor Show 2017

Graphic News

March 9-19, 2017 -- The Geneva motor show is one of the largest and most prestigious in the motoring calendar, and often plays host to the debuts of the world’s finest supercars. The 87th Geneva International Motor Show takes place from March 7-19 at the Palexpo Arena.

Supercars like the Ferrari 812 Superfast and the new McLaren 650S will wow the crowds at the annual car show here, but the bread and butter mainstream industry will be preoccupied with more down to earth matters like slowing sales growth, a big takeover, and potentially tumultuous elections.

Mainstream new car launches are thin on the ground. Kia of Korea will unveil its cute little Picanto city car. Opel-Vauxhall, its future clouded by its owner General Motors seeking to sell it to Peugeot of France, will launch the big Insignia Grand Sport and the Crossland. Land Rover will add to its Range Rover line-up with the new Velar, said to be a rival to the Porsche Macan. Porsche is unveiling a new station wagon, the Panamera Sport Turismo. There will be yet more new SUVs, surprisingly few affordable new electric cars, and a few expensive ones.

At the last big European car show in Paris last October, the abundance of battery-powered cars led to claims the electric car age was here. The hype now has to catch up with affordable electric cars in the showroom. This might be kickstarted late this year when Tesla launches its Model 3 electric car.

After the crowds have gone weak-kneed looking at beauties like the Ferrari and McLaren they will be shocked back to sensibility by the grimace-inducing Mercedes-Maybach G650 Landaulet SUV.

Meanwhile the industry is facing big challenges. Sales are slowing. IHS Markit forecasts Western European car sales will lose momentum in 2017, gaining a mere 1.0% to 16.0 million, slowing down from last year’s healthy 6.2% gain.

There is also political controversy over fuel efficiency regulations and unhealthy diesel emissions. Manufacturers have been criticised for cheating on both sets of rules, and are threatened with expensive new ones forcing compliance.

So will the new cars in Geneva’s spotlight erase some of this gloom? It doesn’t look like it.

“There is no big bang coming from Geneva, after the Paris electric mobility game-changer,” said Professor Stefan Bratzel, from the Centre of Automotive Management in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. “We see weak demand in 2017 in Western Europe, although at the moment we don’t have much evidence. But I don’t see that many new products that will make a big impact on volume,” Bratzel said.

Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Centre for Automotive Research (CAR) at the University of Duisburg-Essen, reckons sales will slow a bit in 2017, but isn’t too worried about elections.

European elections kick off later this month in the Netherlands, with the French presidential elections in late April and May, and the German general election on September 24. There is a possibility that the French election could be won by Marine Le Pen’s Front National which has pledged to leave the euro single currency, and hold an in-out EU referendum. That would bring overnight economic chaos to Europe.

As for the German election, Dudenhoeffer doesn’t see any great change even if Chancellor Angle Merkel is defeated by the Social Democrat challenger. “They both have stable economic policies,” he said.

The Geneva Car Show opens to the public from March 9 through March 19, at the Palexpo Exhibition Centre.

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