The first day of March sees the public opening of the Geneva Auto Show. It's the second big international show of the year, after Detroit, but because of its timing and its history, it's generally accepted as the way in which the world's auto industry welcomes the spring and the new selling season. And despite the mass of new models and concepts that the Detroit show brought, there will still be plenty of newsworthy introductions.
The big thing about Geneva is that Switzerland has no native car industry, so the lakeside city is neutral territory for the world's automakers. In Detroit, Frankfurt, Paris and Tokyo, the big guns of the national industry hog the limelight, but in Geneva nobody has home field advantage — so the field is level for everyone.
Look at the list of new models and concepts that will be unveiled in Geneva and you'll get the point. There are new cars from France, Japan, Italy, Britain and Germany, and with no local giants in the way, they will all get an equal crack of the publicity whip.
X-Type’s light of day
Europe leads the way, with a number of new production cars being launched. One of the most interesting of which is Jaguar's new X-Type small sedan. Although we've seen pictures of the car, this is the first time the public will see it in the metal. The reception it receives, firstly from the press and then from the Swiss public, will give Jaguar and Ford an idea of how the newcomer will make out.
2002 Aston Martin VanquishEnlarge Photo
The Vanquish was due to be launched at the Birmingham show in England last fall, but new Aston Martin boss Dr. Ulrich Bez, who joined the company just ahead of the proposed launch, said the car wasn't up to his personal standards and postponed the event. Now it's acceptable, and production is about to start at a price of around $225,000.
There will be another interesting Aston, in the shape of a special-bodied concept car from Italdesign, the firm started by famous Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. The 20/20 concept is built on the basis of an Aston DB7 Vantage, and uses lightweight plastic body panels on an aluminum frame. It's all Italdesign's work, says Aston, and should not be taken as a forerunner of the DB7's replacement.
Geneva has always been a popular show with the Italian
stylists, and both Pininfarina and Bertone will have new design studies on
display. There will also be a concept from the studio of Leonardo Fioravanti,
who left Pininfarina to set up on his own account a few years ago.
The car is a convertible based on Alfa Romeo mechanicals that could be a pointer
to a future soft-top from the Milan firm. For some years now, Italian cars,
apart from Ferrari and similar low-volume brands, have been absent from the U.S.
market, but the link-up between GM and Fiat means that Alfa will be coming
back to American showrooms in a year or two. That means the Fioravanti project is of potential interest to U.S. car fans — it could be Alfa's weapon to re-establish itself in a market that still remembers The Graduate.