Car News: Geneva Motor Show

A weekly guide to all that’s rotten in the auto industry, plus some good bits

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The Geneva Motor Show – a window on people with too much money and no conscience

This year’s Geneva Motor Show emphasises what the perceptive already see, car manufacturers still concentrating their output on producing costly toys for the mega-wealthy, ably assisted in that quest by Britain’s witless right-wing car magazines.

Where were the affordable cars? Vauxhall was absent, and neither Volkswagen (hit by class actions for emission scandal) Fiat or Ford had anything new to show in the world’s biggest car emporium. Curious and significant.

Nothing is learned from history, at least not by car makers. Back in the day British manufacturers chose to make many cars for the masses or they chose to produce few cars for the rich. They are still ignoring car security, (theft is on the rise) eliminating rust areas, (the majority of cars are parked out of doors) protecting against minor dings and dents, (barely a car exists without them) or lobbying government to increase the pace of installing electric boosting stations. They keep on raising prices with the excuse the car buyer demands luxury vehicles. Yes, we want interiors that are durable and interesting, but the trend is individual cars for the elite.

Back in the day Britain had populist Vauxhall on the one hand, and elite Rolls-Royce on the other. Those producing luxury vehicles all went belly up and had to be rescued either by a new owner or by the state. Some never recovered: Riley, Lagonda, Bristol, AC Sporstcars, Lister, Singer of sewing machine fame, all dead and buried. Rolls-Royce was bought and rescued by the Germans, Bentley too – how very unBritish, Aston Martin reborn countless times now with Saudi backing, Jaguar twice on its knees now owned by conglomerate Tata of India. Some have risen from the grave, such as TVR but resurrected with a model three times dearer than any TVR before it, for the rich only.

Manufactures are pandering to the biggest profit suppliers – the stinking rich. Personal motoring is moving away from transportation for the common man. We are expected to buy second-hand, cycle, or take a bus.

With few exceptions evidence abounds todays car makers are rarely ahead of invention the last to incorporate the new that makes driving easer, safer and cheaper. You’d hardly believe that if you feasted on British car magazines. They sing the praises of the latest 200 mph 500 horsepower donkey. They jostle to test the latest unaffordable leather over-padded lounge seats that cost the price of a house. Their supercars are for boy racers to salivate over, people who will never own more than a souped up Citroen AX with a Howitzer exhaust. Something is seriously wrong with society’s values.

Even Jaguar, with its promise of an electric SUV produces a really elegant vehicle from the outside, pretty conventional inside, yet fit for thick wallets only, starting at a predicted £60,000 rising to almost £80,000. Electric cars for the masses are left to Renault.

Cars you once admired are this year bigger, wider, and heavier, when in fact we need them to do the reverse. So, I’ll stick to reporting on the weird and the wacky.

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The FOMM 1

One of the few concept vehicles was the Japanese Fomm 1, an electric micro car for the city and ugly as sin. It has the unusual advantage it can float, a bonus come the next tsunami. A lot of thought has gone in to making it a four-seat car, but its shape repels, offensive to the eye, not aided by the burnt sugar and white top presentation. I’m sorry to report that the front is just as horrible as the rear. Must be from the same designer.

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PAL-V Liberty

This contraption flies, not a plane but a helicopter. All that stuff on the roof of the Pal V – Liberty is the fold out blades. Good for snow-bound roads so long as there is a helipad on your house roof. Only three wheels, but it’s all plastic so it won’t rust. Watch out for telegraph poles, and wind turbines. It really can fly, has been tested, but can you imagine boy racer or Mr Alcoholic getting hold of one, and a police chase in the sky? I shudder.

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Hyundai Auto-Vision

Here is the super-contemporary interior of the Hyundai Auto-Vision, why ‘Auto-Vision’ I do not know. Manufacturers are wedded to ever-bigger and fatter transmission tunnels, making the Smart4Two which has none the easiest car in the world to slip from one seat to the other, perfect when parked next to a wall. Here the transmission tunnel is floating, ready to cut you in half on side impact. Still, the carpets are easy to clean. Finding the coins that dropped out of your pocket is also easier.

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Icona Nucleus

This is something called the Icona Nucleus. It is so futuristic it is somewhere out in space millions of light years away. It looks weirder doors closed. Icona is an Italian design company, and that vehicle, if I can call it a vehicle, is an electric six-seater. It drives itself. You could describe it as the ultimate self-driving living room. That’s the direction most manufacturers are taking. We like our comforts. Soon will come toilet and shower for long-distance travel. In this instance I fear the designers are striving too hard.

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E’Mobile Microlino

Auto makers never tire of nostalgia. If it sold well back in the 1950s and 1960s lets make it again, but update it. Here is BMW’s Bubble Car made modern, the smallest and the cheapest chariot, a shopping trolley. This version is more stable than its predecessors. It has four wheels and stability control. It brings a smile to your face, and a look of horror in a head-on crash … where the only door is fixed. Unlike the original it doesn’t have a tin can for an engine. It’s electric, 80 miles on a single charge.

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ItalDesign Pop-Up

Ital Design’s Pop-up is a Dyson cordless hoover probably the most interesting of all the cars at the show. It oozes clever ideas and robust materials. I’m told they are working on a flying version. This one looks as if it cleans gutters as it moves. It is “the next modular transportation system”. I’m not sure about that, not in fitted kitchen white. And the designers have forgotten about speed bumps.

Looking back at the photographs I see most experimentation is coming from Italian companies this year. Whether they manage to sell any of their concoctions is another matter. As for the other marques and brands it was as expected, all glitz and glamour and prices to give you a nose bleed. Progress? Phooey!

PS: Not a single dolly bird, model, out of work actress, or power dresser female to be seen draping a car. Progress in something.

NEXT WEEK: Electric cars – a shocking trend. (I’ll get my coat.)

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13 Responses to Car News: Geneva Motor Show

  1. socratesmacsporran says:

    Grouse Beater, I hate to rain on your parade, especially after such a learned discourse. However, Bristol is not dead – they may be in intensive care, building just a handful of cars, but, I have promised myself, when the Euromillions cheque is safely in the bank, I will be ordering a Bristol Bullet as my plaything.

  2. Grouse Beater says:

    This is the Rangers Club debate all over again – when is a car company dead? Bristol went bankrupt, but after many years someone has bought the rights to the name and the sportscar. The eccentric saloon maker is long gone, and I can’t see a crowd beating a path to the sportscar re-invention. Then again, that’s what folk are after – individuality. Your neighbour doesn’t have one on his driveway. That said, I hope you attain your dream! 🙂

  3. Duncan Strachan says:

    There is subcontious tendency these days use the term ‘elite’ for those that are rich by being more manipulative of our tax system, more greedy for money and power and have a greater propensity to break the laws of the land to get what they want by usuary. They want to be billionaires while already being multi-millionaires purely to move in these odious circles in and show off their pointless wealth.

  4. Grouse Beater says:

    Very true, Duncan. Conspicuous consumption is still with us but now of imperial levels. (Typos fixed) 🙂

  5. To be frank, gents ‘Elite’ for me, conjures up the opposite connotations that it no doubt does for the self-proclaimed, ehh, ‘Elite’. Elitism of course exists on various levels and even in the unlikely settings of model railway forum, a place where I learned a lot about the ‘elitist mindset’, surprisingly. Some people are ready to shit all over others to ‘rise to the top’ in even a fucking hobby forum!

    Much as I once loved supercars, today, I associate all those top range Jags, Mercs and all levels above with people I’d instinctively cross the street to avoid. Hell, I even view Ser 5 BMW owners (sic) with suspicion these days.

    These concept cars here though although interesting are about as practical as those over the top outfits you see on the catwalks at the Paris Fashion Show. 🙂 Still, they’re a useful pointer on where car development is going

  6. Grouse Beater says:

    Never thought of railway modellers as a class ridden society. Hoo haar. Thought it was a shared bobby, but I guess the guy with the biggest layout in the loft is king, only usurped by the chap with a working scale steam locomotive in his garden.

  7. You’d be surprised by some of the dick waving that goes on on the likes of RMWeb (you may find me there as ‘Mad McCann’ – a tale for another day – ) I imagine some of those on there are city spivs who made their killing in the ’80s and spend their annual bonuses recreating their early teens, spotting at Basingstoke in 1965. 😉

    The guy I had trouble with (on another forum to be clear) was no better off in terms of income or ‘social standing’ than I but even inadequate guys with no arses in their trousers gain a sense of superiority from their self perception of superior knowledge of, for, example the bodywork nuances of Sulzer-engined British Railways diesel locos of the early 1960s. That’s all very well and fair play on anyone with the ability to generate extensive personal knowledge in a specialist field, but only the fool believes that places him above the rest of humanity in any way.

    Of course, that doesn’t prevent the gullible and the camp followers from gathering round such an individual. The end result of this was a ‘purge’ of that forum of all that this individual saw (rarely with any sort of justification) as a threat to ‘his’ forum including most of those who like myself had devoted energy and even put our hands in our pockets to set that site up. It was with a sense of wry satisfaction that last month I learned that the once promising forum was being downgraded to ‘read only’.

    “Best served cold”, the man said. Still it was a hard lesson in group politics and the reason why I’m pretty much a lone wolf modeller these days. Learned similar lessons from marriage… 😉

  8. Grouse Beater says:

    There’s a book in that, ‘On the Buffers’. I see similar things swirling around the Wings site, this year raised a remarkable £100,000 fund. Only if independence is won back will Campbell and friends running it be honoured by the Scottish establishment, a rush to be seen with ‘pioneers’, equivalent of a foot soldier getting a medal for bravery in the field. I wonder if he will refuse praise and share it around instead?

  9. I’ll be utterly impressed if he tells the luvvies where to ram it.

  10. Dear sir, thank you for putting the words and articulating what I have been feeling all this while about these car shows. I always find it odd that most of these cars are either too expensive and/or impractical for daily use.

    I have to disagree though with your opinion of the small cars, particularly the Fomm 1. It may be ugly as fuck but it surely can park. When I first started out work, it was in George Town, Penang. The city was/is full of small, narrow and curving alleys (usually call “x” Lane). It was a nightmare to park especially if you were driving a (your mum’s) 1.5L sedan. The Fomm 1 would have been a delight; I could even fully park on the curb if I wanted too. Ahhh the good old days of lax parking enforcement. You cannot do it nowadays ;P

    As always, I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

    ABU

  11. Grouse Beater says:

    You’re very kind, Ebreah, but I am still trying to work out who you really are! 🙂

  12. Lanark says:

    I despair at the standard of journalism in this country and motoring journalism is no exception.

    “Humble “makers such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Vauxhall employ many more people than the ” luxury ” makers and make superior products in most cases. I have much more respect for the many old Avensis/Corollas and Accord/Civics there are on the road than a ” premium” car. (Which are all mass produced anyway and look almost identical to its predecessor).

    I could never stand Top Gear with all the six figure irrelevances and if a budget banger did feature, (my kind of car), they were always needlessly destroyed. And the annoying Star in the reasonably priced car feature just seemed to me to be a chance for a rich celebrity to sneer at a family car that is all that the viewer may be able to afford. Why not mock their house too?

    Interesting read as ever and in complete agreement with you on the Hyundai concept. What is the idea with intrusive transmission tunnels? Even many front wheel drive cars waste loads of interior space with them. My Honda has a completely flat floor and like yourself I find it a really useful feature in some situations that I can get in on either side and it is so much easier to hoover the inside!

  13. Grouse Beater says:

    I see one car journalist spotted the lack of affordable vehicles, published only today, but his gripe is short and brief – might lose his job by complaining too much, or have car companies refuse him cars to test….

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