Steeped in tradition, the annual Geneva Motor Show is without equal. Conveniently located in the middle of the European continent and on 'neutral' ground, the Swiss show traditionally brings out the best from both main stream and specialist manufacturers. During the last few, difficult years, little seemed to change in 'PalExpo' exhibition centre with companies desperate to keep up appearances. This year was again business as 'usual' but there were changes afoot not in the least the sad absence of long-time exhibitor Saab, Bentley's expansion into the SUV market and the return of the Japanese sports car. Another, even more surprising, development was the lack of Chinese manufacturers, who in the previous years were quickly making inroads into the European market. The exhibitors that remained, were on their best behaviour and as a result we were treated to one of the most interesting editions of the Geneva Motor Show in recent history. All this and much more can be found in our exclusive 280-shot gallery
Green, greener, greenest
During the last decade, the 'green' car has really taken centre stage, initially mainly for company image purposes but now, especially in Europe, there is a financial incentive. Surprisingly, it is the not the rise in fuel prices that have convinced customers to look out for a 'greener' alternative but government subsidies, dramatically cutting the price of efficient cars. The magic number to determine if a car is clean is 99 as in 99 grams of CO2 emission per kilometre. Not surprisingly many of the mainstream production and show cars came in at exactly that or under that figure. Geneva, as a show, has always catered for these clean machines well but this year went a step further with a separate pavilion in front of the 'PalExpo' exhibition centre. Here visitors could not only take a look at the alternatively fuelled machines but also try them on a short track in the park. Appropriately, the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera was named European Car of the Year on the eve of the show.
Land of the rising sports car
One of the first companies to embrace hybrid technology was Toyota and most of the Japanese manufacturers quickly followed suit. Unfortunately this came at the expense of the sports cars, which no longer met the newly obtained image. Exciting machines like the Supra and NSX simply disappeared from the roster, until now. With the launch late last year of the Toyota GT 86 / Subaru BRZ, the tide seems to have turned. Shown in Europe for the first time, these also received plenty of attention here in Geneva. Toyota had put up a particularly lovely display with a GT 86 shown alongside a fabulous 2000 GT of the 1960s. There is more to come as Honda displayed the NSX concept first seen as an Acura in Detroit. Although it also uses a hybrid drivetrain, it is hopefully every bit as quick as the original. Nissan subsidiary Infiniti also jumped on the sports car bandwagon with the Emerg-E Concept. Like the NSX, the fabulously styled Infiniti uses a hybrid drivetrain, which is good for an impressive 400 bhp. We understand that production plans are currently being assessed and two running prototypes have also been built for testing.
Italian Haute Couture
Virtually extinct everywhere else in the world, quite a few custom coach builders or carrozzerie
still exist in Italy, although in some cases only just. In keeping with tradition they use Geneva to show their latest designs and this year was no exception. Bertone marked the company's 100th anniversary by revealing the 'Nuccio'. Named after the late, longtime chairman of the company Nuccio Bertone, it was clearly inspired by the Stratos Zero; one of the carrozzeria's
most famous designs. We were told that the example brought to Geneva was a stationary model but that a fully functional Nuccio is under construction. Across the isle, Pininfarina took the wraps off the very elegant 'Cambiano' concept. While boasting very modern lines, it fits in the tradition of the four-door Florida show cars of the 1950s. Even though the company was acquired by Volkswagen, Giugiaro Italdesign continues to produce impressive show cars. The Brivido on display in Geneva was shown in both road going and competition trim. Volkswagen's influence was found in the very low nose where a 400 hp, Volkswagen hybrid drivetrain is found. The only recently re-established Touring of Milan also paid tribute to a design of old with the 'Disco Volante 2012'.
Like the carrozzerias, the high end manufacturers also make a date of Geneva every year. Following the FF introduced a year ago, Ferrari now revealed the F12berlinetta, which is the replacement of the 599 GTB Fiorano. Powered by a direct injection V12, which pumps out 740 hp, it promises to be the fastest production Ferrari ever. Arch-rivals Lamborghini were also in good form this year with the unveiling of the Aventador J. This stripped out and chopped Aventador is not just a styling exercise but a one-off that will be handed to a very fortunate customer after the show. That is fortunate in more than one way as the 'J' reportedly cost 2.1 million Euro ex VAT. Bugatti were on hand to launch yet another version of the Veyron super car. Known as the Grand Sport Vitesse, it is a combination of the roadster body with the 1200 hp engine from the world record holding Super Sport. Meanwhile nibbling away at the Veyron's records is the small Swedish company Koenigsegg, who unveiled a revised Agera R in Geneva. Among the changes are the world's first hollow spoke carbon fibre wheels. Operating on the other side of the high-end spectrum, Rolls-Royce used the Geneva to show the 'Series II' version of the three Phantom models. Changes were mostly skin-deep like the addition of an eight-speed gearbox but they can also be distinguished from the Series I by new LED driving lights.
When asked about this year's highlights, many of the people we spoke came up with the obvious names like Ferrari and Lamborghini but also the Infiniti Emerg-E clearly impressed a lot of people. Receiving a much cooler reception was Bentley's EXP 9 F, the British manufacturer's version of the Cayenne/Q7. It is a shame that the somewhat vulgar exterior scared many away from taking a closer look because the interior was actually very nicely executed. Building on its very rich history, the Geneva Motor Show has a lot to live up to each year. The 2012 edition certainly did not disappoint, which can also be seen in our exclusive 280-shot gallery