Geneva Live Update
We've popped over to Switzerland to bring you the news and gossip from the Geneva Motorshow.
Evo's headed to Switzerland in force this year to report on the Geneva Motorshow. It's a great show to come to, chiefly because it's small which means manufacturers have limited space so can't fill their stands with pointless metal. Everything has to count. Small also means it's easy to get round, see what matters and tell you all about it. The idea here is to try and bring you a flavour of the show in easily digested snippets. So check back here regularly to find out what we've seen, what we like, what we don't, who we've spoken to and any gossip we've unearthed.
That's me done. Hope you've got something out of this blog and if you can't be bothered to read what I've written, I'd urge you to at least flick through the pics for a flavour of the show. Geneva 2010 has been a belter, there's been plenty of important stuff, plenty of exciting stuff, plenty of amusing stuff and lots to talk about. That's my excuse for writing so much anyway. Bye.
I hope I'm not pointing out the obvious here, but Nissan has obviously been concentrating so hard on the Juke that it completely forget that it had to design a new Micra until sometime last Thursday.
Bufori. Malaysian for 'our ambassador needs a car'
Chrysler and Lancia. Even seeing it written down on paper it looks wrong, but the reality at the show is far worse, with 300C's scaring the life out of Ypsilon's. It's Euro-chic meets Yankee-brash and I just can't see how Fiat is going to make it work. Particularly when Chrysler's model programme lags so far behind that they still think a PT Cruiser is relevant stand fodder.
Everyone harps on about the stand girls at Alfa and Lambo, but I have to say the standards are very high this year. Corvette has teamed all-American muscle with catwalk skinniness - a curious combination, but for sheer intimidation it has to be the creature on the Bertone stand. She must be seven feet tall as she stalks around the Pandion in vertiginous boots. No man dares approach within a metre of the rail around the stand. The Bertone execs are cowered in a cluster behind their welcome desk, wondering how on earth they ended up employing something that looks like it wants to devour them. It's worked though, the crowds around the stand are still three deep as we all try to hide behind each other, while surreptitiously snapping away.
Just found a new and previously undiscovered car company tucked away between Chevy and Infiniti. It's called DR. Given they build city cars, it's safe to assume Meaden and Harris aren't involved.
Go back for another look at the orange monstrosity on the OZ wheels stand. The 'door' is up and someone's etched their name on the mirrored kickplate. Franco Sbarro. Ahh, all becomes clear. Then suddenly he's there, opens the boot and shows us the Ferrari V12.
Dacia Duster. Could well be the only car at Geneva rolling on steelies.
Stop for a coffee at VW. Piech walks past with his wife and the Chinese PR lady with us, who obviously has an eye for these things, points out that Frau Piech is carrying an Ostrich leather handbag. Cost? About 20,000 euros apparently.
Venture down into the so-called Green Pavilion, the place where firms can showcase their green technology. No-one else is there. At all. OK, there are some people on the stands, but some are closed altogether and besides the Mini E, it's a land of solar-powered tandems and meccano buggies. The big car manufacturers are now talking realistically about electric power and future tech, surely making this little backwater rather pointless. And why the hell are Ruf down there? Couldn't they get a proper stand?
Modern technology? It's just taken me 20 minutes to get an internet connection sorted.
Just heard on the grapevine that yesterday's Audi A1 and Justin Timberlake unveiling was a complete debacle. The scripted conversation with a German Audi exec was hilariously stilted and when that was over the exec invited all the press up on stage before Timberlake's entourage had arrived to secure their man. Cue absolute mayhem as the Britney-boffing body-popper was trapped next to the A-pillar until his bodyguards started throwing people around to get to him.
Don't know if you've read the magazine this month, but Porsche's GT3 R Hybrid is our lead news story, and it uses Williams F1's KERS technology. Hadn't realised it literally would be just a box on the passenger side. There's a heavy wheel in there spinning at 40,000rpm...
Didn't see it yesterday, but the Mercedes F800 is a thing of beauty. Really nicely executed, and with some very specific design elements that I'm sure will be seen on road cars very soon. Of course it's meant to give a strong indication of what the new CLS will be like.
Head back to Peugeot, chiefly because I want to have a look at the 908 Le Mans car and more specifically its engine - check out the swirl effect barrels - go round the back of the stand and discover a 200-year celebration of all things Peugeot: bikes, pepper grinders, the gorgeous 402 with its removable hard top. There's some great stuff here.
It's always much quieter on the second press day - to be honest it's the better day to get round and see stuff. Stands are still pretty clear of people. They're pretty clear of cars, too. Some have obviously been removed overnight
Dinner with Pelata was mainly about the business case for electric vehicles. This is dull. Important, but dull. I asked about the future of Renaultsport and whether it would go electric and got neatly dealt with. I didn't even realise he was now talking about something else until I looked down at what I was writing in my pad. So, Renaultsport will be petrol for a while yet. More success when a couple of us ganged up on him about Gordini. It's just a trial, he insisted, which, reading between the lines, means he's not convinced, either. He went on to give Citroen a hard time about the DS3, accusing it of having "too many feathers", which I think means he sees it as too frivolous, with no real substance. At least Citroen actually has the presence of mind to go out and seek the MINI buyer, not just resurrect an old name and slap some stripes on a Twingo. Good grief Gordini sucks. I love Renault, I love Renaultsport, why foist this bollocks on such a valid and valuable brand? I'm tired, I'm ranting, I'm going to bed. There'll be more tomorrow.
Feet are tired, the heat is getting oppressive (especially on the upper levels), so I'm soon going to head back to the hotel - not least because I've got to prepare for dinner with Patrick Pelata, Renault's Chief Operating Officer and Carlos Ghosn's second in command. Anyway, before I left I wanted to summarise the show briefly. Stars? Porsche 918 Spyder unquestionably, the Citroen concepts, the Audi A1 is a nice piece of design - smaller than you expect, the Ferrari 599 RAM-BLERS, sorry HY-KERS, Bertone's Pandion for being what a concept ought to be, Lotus range-extender engine (and the Evora it appears in). Product-wise the tone was upbeat, sales-wise there's still an undercurrent of concern that surfaces on some stands (Subaru and Chevrolet were good examples). But product drives sales and there's a lot here that people want to look at. In previous years the show floor has been pretty much empty by 5pm, but right now people are still striding around purposefully, wanting to see stuff. I can't help thinking that's good news.
No two ways of saying this: the mullet count is disappointingly low this year
Back into tuner-land. Just realised how it works out here. You have to have your bonnet open to impress - it's a bit of willy-waving. The only cars not to have their bonnet's aloft on the Brabus stand are the Smarts. Techart, Brabus, FAB Design, Hamann, AC Schnitzer, Carlsson, Abt and the rest face each other across the aisles like angry male hippos (yes, there are a lot of tweaked G-Wagens), mouths agape, power and performance figures bellowing. It's refreshing actually. While the major manufacturers tread around each other so delicately, these firms fight tooth and nail for customers. It's open warfare in sharp suits and loafers.
Spent the last 40 minutes talking to Peugeot about the RCZ and how it'll make Peugeot's great again. A few things made me optimistic, a couple made me pessimistic. The chassis boss (the chap I interviewed) insisted the ESP had to be fully switch-offable, and even more encouragingly he refused to let it have an electric handbrake. Yep, for the reasons you're thinking. He still spoke extensively about it being a safer car than Peugeot's of yore, but he also talked in detail about the importance of steering and handling. Oh, and the death of the GTI has been greatly exaggerated. Didn't quite get to the bottom of why they said that late last year, but it smacks of a marketing stunt. Normal hot hatch service will be resumed. Actually, given the 206 GTI and lukewarm 207, let's hope not. Let's hope for more.
Just seen my first 'Dap of Oppo' T-shirt
It's not just the Fiesta ST that's missing. Others that are MIA: Land Rover LRX and M3 GTS.
Two companies not doing hot hatches very well. Renault and Ford. Yep, really. Let me clarify. Gordini is the waste of a good brand, doing nothing more than muddying the otherwise clear Renaultsport waters. If it's meant to be a DS3-alike retort to the Mini it's a total waste of space: far too little, far too late. And how confusing is it to launch it at the same time as GT by Renaultsport. And where's the Fiesta ST when you need it? There's an apologetic Fiesta on Ford's stand with white wheels and white stripes. Maybe it's just there to show Ford could do a Gordini if it wanted to. Let's hope it doesn't.
Right, better concentrate on some important stuff: hot hatches. Am I the only one more excited by the arrival of the Fabia vRS than the Polo GTI? I know they'll be similar (and potentially similarly disappointing) to drive, but I like the Skoda's direct approach - there's no side to it at all. Not sure it's a good idea to do an estate version of the Fabia vRS, though - looks horrid and devalues the brand. Somehow it works for Octavia, but not here.
Just discovered the best concept at the show: Bertone's Pandion. Look at the doors. Look at how they open. Look at that interior. Magnificently bonkers, just what a concept should be.
The Zonda's been around for years now, and yet people still crawl all over it. It's the detailing. The Cinque Roadster has the best air intake of any road car ever.
I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that this is a very good show. The best Geneva I've ever been to - that's 8 years and counting. The last couple have been a bit sanctimonious as firms wring their hands and moan about impossible emissions targets and dire financial implications. This one's different and there's a real vibe to it. The money's coming back in and the technology has caught up - that Porsche 918 Spyder really could mark a turning point for the sports car industry. What's more we all got a bit blase assuming we'd seen everything in advance and we really hadn't. It's nice to have surprises.
Slebs. I have missed them all today: Schumi, Justin Timberlake prancing round an Audi A1, Shakira shaking her thang at SEAT (quite upset I missed that). My only spot is Ulrich Eichhorn from Bentley chatting Paul and 'wee' Jackie Stewart into buying a Mulsanne.
Sweet! Morgan pedal car. Sweet!
Think I forgot to mention this earlier, but Peugeot's stand looks good. I like the pod thing, the SR1 holds its own in there and the bike is gorgeous. I like bikes.
Just had a great interview with the head of Citroen Racing, Olivier can't-remember-his-surname, we talked DS3-R (there will be more than 1000 built), but he also chatted about how he doesn't think the IRC will ever replace the WRC, not now others are coming in. He mentionned MINI, then another firm, then quickly back-tracked. More digging required.
Citroen has sprung a surprise. I've come over to interview the head of Citroen Racing about the DS3-R to find rendered a non-story on the stand alongside a pair of mad purple electric concepts. The Revolte is a reimagined 2CV that was shown at Frankfurt last year, but the Survolt is new, the idea being to mix the GTbyCitroen concept with the Revolte to create something, well, even more bonkers. Love this return to form by the French.
That took longer than I thought. Right, the main monstrosities here are from Hamann, FAB Design and, you guessed it, Mansory. The rest (Techart, Brabus, Sportec, Lumma Design etc, etc, etc) pale in comparison. There are pics of all this in the 'Mad Stuff' gallery. I think FAB Design are the most objectionable, although Hamann take the biscuit for stupid names (the X6 is called the Tycoon, the Range Rover Sport is the Conqueror). Mansory have somehow managed to gain legitimacy, chiefly because Bugatti has its own carbon bodied Veyron this year and because I have now decided that I have a sneaky regard for something as OTT as a carbon G-Wagen.
There's a Jeep on a turntable made of wooden logs. Proper backwoods stuff. On my way to have a look at daft tuner stuff next.
Autobau. The concept on the OZ wheels stand. I don't know what to say, I really don't. I do know what the designers said, though: "That pink panther car that the kid drove was really cool, and do you remember that Pininfarina job from the late '70s? Well let's mash 'em together. And remember; the overall theme to keep in mind is ant-eater".
Ho-hum it's the Honda CR-Z. Should have been bolder... Is it just me or is the boxy city car concept much cooler than the coupe?
There's still stuff under wraps when I get back across to the show, but I'm not sure I want to see what they're like with the wraps removed anyway. I'm talking about the offerings from Bufori and the King Saud University. Unfortunately I can see the Lumeneo Smera, which has clearly already been through a car crusher in its readiness to meet the car scrappage regulations.
I'm loving being able to sneak out the back entrance, walk 50 yards across a plaza and into my hotel for a bit of brekkie. Geneva is usually a total traffic nightmare during the show, with most journo's billeted down in the smart hotels on the Lakeside. About 4 miles from Palexpo, it can often take over an hour to get from one to the other. In previous years I've given up and walked the last couple of miles, but I'm feeling pretty bloody lucky to be where I am this year. I owe a big thank you to Renault. But I still don't like what they've done with Gordini.
Porsche's press conference started five minutes ago and it's a complete scrum. After the bods have stopped talking about 'Ring times and CO2 emissions Nick and I fight our way to the front. I like the 904 style nose and headlights, but it doesn't have a very clear Porsche design language, the 918. Like I said last night (see the bottom of this page), I think there are certain similarities with the Noble M12...
Meet Harry M, Nick T, Henry C and Chris H on the Jag stand. Evo's here in force but we're all giggling about the Aston Cygnet having the face off against the Porsche 918 Spyder.
Quick run around the upper level yields a green Ferrari (it's the hybrid, obviously), a purple Bentley, a brown R8 Spider and a Bugatti cleft in two. That's the interesting one - I'll put some images up for you to have a look at. There's nothing new there, but seeing a Veyron with its innards exposed is pretty cool.
Alain Prost drives a Dacia. Think he uses it for ice racing rather than as a family hack.
Up into the top hall for a quick walkaround. At the top of the stairs the whiff of desperation is strong. Not so much from Vauxhall (the Astra still catches the eye), but Subaru on the left, quickly followed by Saab on the right. Rumour is that upbeat news will be arriving later from new owner (and Spyker CEO) Viktor Muller, but surely putting a 9-3 cabrio and estate as your lead cars is wrong when the 9-5 is just behind and looks so much more interesting.
The red interlude didn't last long. Toyota's theme is white. White cars, white clothing, white floor. Purer than the driven snow must be the effect they're after.
Alfa has a red theme. Alfa always has a red theme. There's a bloke working away under the bonnet of what must be a new Giulietta, which is not a good look for an Alfa. I rather like whatever the old car is, though.
Stroll past Jag as one of the exec's is practicing his presentation. It needs polish it must be said. He's not helped by the fact that Jag's look wrong in white. I know they're trying to appeal to a younger sportier audience, but the white XFR just looks upsettingly wrong.
Peugeot 408? No idea there was such a thing. And what's with the Chinese graphics? Ahh, it's a 308 with a boot. For the Chinese market only. So what's it doing here, then, besides lowering the tone of the Peugeot stand? RCZ looks pretty good - the bonnet line's quite raised, but it's not a bad homage to the TT.
Been on the BMW stand and there's not a sign of the M3 GTS. In fact the whole theme seems to be Efficient Dynamics. Don't get me wrong, I think BMW's technology is the best - they were way ahead of everyone on it. But they need to stop banging the drum and say something different, something that's going to get us excited. There's no-one here yet, but I don't think the atmosphere on BMW's stand is going to come alive today.
Why does MINI have two colossal hats dominating its stand? They're about as tasteful and relevant as the Countryman itself.
The Mansory appears to have an ivory interior, but my attention is momentarily distracted by the Mansory G-Wagen. It has a carbon body. I'm trying to decide if this is obscene or actually quite cool...
Edge my way round a giant cherry picker (love the fact the tyres have been wrapped so as not to mark the carpet) and find Rolls Royce almost nose to nose with Mansory - them of that godawful blue-and-gold Ghost. It looks worse in the flesh, gaudy and unbecoming. Could that be why Rolls has buried the Ghost on its own stand, placing the Phantom up front?
There's another curious juxtaposition. Dodge is next to POrsche. The contrast here is even more stark as two V8 muscle cars sit unabashed and unashamed next to Porsche's futuristic Hybrid Hypercar. The Dodge's look old, but still cool.
Walk straight down from Mazda past Aston. Oh dear. It may be under wraps at the moment, but it's clear their star of the show is the Cygnet. Oh dear. Porsche is just across the way and last night shocked everyone by pulling the wraps off the 918 Spyder - which is cleaner and more fuel efficient than Aston's rebadged iQ. Oh dear Aston. Looks like Porsche has got you over a barrel on this one.
Despite the early wake up this morning, this has to be the best Geneva hotel I've ever stayed at. You walk out the back door, up a ramp and straight in a small door in the back of Palexpo that emerges between Mazda and Ford's stands. One minute and one hundred metres at most. It's a sneaky way in and I'm pretty sure I wasn't meant to use it. The clue was when I presented my pass to the security guard, he scanned it, his machine burped and showed a big red cross on the screen, and yet he still waved me through. Very un-Swiss.
Woken up before my alarm clock by the commotion outside. I'm staying at the Crowne Plaza at Geneva airport, and it's right behind the Palexpo exhibition centre. A bleary glance out the window reveals there are still trucks unloading stand cars only an hour before the show opens. Trucker and security guard currently having some sort of stand off about whether he's brought his Fiat 500 to the right gate by the looks of it.
Just finished doing the Porsche story and have to admit that Porsche appears to have found a very neat way of dodging the EU emissions legislation. Just 70g/km on the CO2 cycle apparently for the 918 Spyder, all down to the fact it can be driven exclusively on battery power. Which also means guilt-free enjoyment of what should be an utterly epic 3.4-litre racing V8 that revs to 9200rpm. This is the most blatant dodge around emissions legislation that I've yet seen, and I love it!
Harry's just sent the first images of the 918 Spyder across. Looks a lot like the Carrera GT, with an odd hint of Noble M12 around the nose. 'Tis only a concept at the moment, but Porsche has a good record of following through with this sort of stuff. It's clearly going to have a lot in common with Ferrari's 599 Hybrid...
Just had a text from Harry, who's at the VW preview evening. Porsche has just pulled the wraps off a 918 Spyder. Apparently it's some sort of hybrid supercar concept that'll lap the 'Ring in under 7.30mins and doubtless return 100mpg. Sounds very cool, though.