2010 Geneva Motor Show
A bright start for Europe's first auto show of 2010
Geneva, Switzerland - Dare I say, compared to the gloomy 2009 affair, there was a slight scent of some optimism in the Swiss spring air during this year's Geneva Motor Show. Automakers that looked like they weren't long for this world just 12 months ago, showed definite signs of hope.
General Motors, facing bankruptcy and shedding brands only last year, showed some swagger, debuting its European Opel Flextreme GT/E. It is yet another extended-range hybrid concept based on Chevrolet Volt mechanicals.
However, if you had to pick a theme from the Geneva show floor, it was the endless parade of hybrid supercars. Concept debuts like the Ferrari 599 HY-KERS hybrid, Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid and Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid garnered the most amount of attention. Toyota didn't want to miss out on Geneva's hybrid party. It debuted two more production hybrids: the Euro-only Auris (think Corolla hatch with a Prius drivetrain), and the Lexus CT 200h, the brand's first premium compact hybrid.
One of the great treats of the Geneva show are the Italian styling houses that show up here in Geneva on an annual basis. Pininfarina displayed its hard-to-pronounce 2uettottanta Concept, a Mazda Miata-rivaling proposal for an Alfa Romeo roadster. My favourite, though, came from Bertone, and its wickedly creative Pandion concept; a reminder of the wild super car concepts the Italians used to pen on a regular basis in the early 1970s.
With no home market manufacturers, Switzerland is neutral ground for automakers. But the big German brands kept up the product assault on all fronts. BMW had its refreshed X5 SUV and a concept hybrid version of its new 5 Series. Mercedes-Benz's highlight was its F800 Style concept, a precursor to the next CLS-Class. While Volkswagen Group rolled out new hybrid versions of its Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne SUVs.
For me, the biggest Teutonic car news came with Audi's A1: a direct rival to small premium cars like the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper. Initially only available Europe with gas and diesel engines, Audi also displayed a potential rotary gas-electric hybrid A1.
The other trend that continued in Geneva was the ever-shrinking crossover, as illustrated by the Nissan Juke, Mini Countryman, Kia Sportage, and Mitsubishi ASX (which will be sold here as the Outlander Sport).
Hybrids, concepts, and great small cars -- the 2010 Geneva show had it all. But the real news here in the shadow of the Alps is the return of confidence in the auto industry, despite the uncertainty of more stringent government regulations and a U.S. economy that still hasn't found its legs.
The car business isn't out of the woods, quite yet. But at least the light at the end of the tunnel isn't a fast approaching train.