This week we'll see what is — since Switzerland has no home-based industry to hog the limelight — the only truly international show in the world. As it opens in Geneva, maybe the world’s most relaxed motor show will as usual have some interesting introductions.
For the real car buffs, the highlight will be the Ferrari stand, where the new F360M Spider convertible will be making its first public appearance. Geneva has become Ferrari's favorite spot for introductions in recent years, and it's not just because of the worldwide media focus the show attracts. Geneva's press days are always notable for the presence of large numbers of people who are far too well dressed to be automotive writers — or even auto industry executives. These are the glitterati who make Switzerland their home or their tax haven, and Ferrari knows that by launching a car here, it will not only pick up oceans of ink and miles of video footage, it will also pick up a few orders to help cover the expenses.
What's going to sell the F360? Performance, in the form of a 185-mph top speed and 0-to-60 mph acceleration in 4.7 seconds. Also, there is technology, in the form of an aluminum-based construction that cuts weight — always a problem in convertibles — by 39 percent compared to its predecessor, the F355. There's convenience, in the form of the first all-electric top on a Ferrari, and there's style, in the form of a smooth body penned by Pininfarina, Ferrari's oldest and best collaborator. The checks those well-dressed fans will be signing for their own F360M will be for around $150,000.
2000 Jaguar F-type concept
Still in the realms of speed and style, Geneva will give the Europeans the first opportunity to see Jaguar's F-Type, the car that conquered Detroit, in the metal. "The world is our focus group," said Jaguar boss Jonathan Browning when he unveiled the sleek roadster. Geneva was to be a second opinion on the car that Jaguar had built to see whether a market existed for a Jaguar the size of a Porsche Boxster. Detroit said there was, and Geneva will surely echo that opinion. There's little doubt that in Coventry they are already working on turning the concept into reality.
Yesterday's concept, tomorrow's purchase
2000 Opel VX220 sports car concept
Another concept that's turning into reality will be on the stand of Opel,
GM's main European brand, in the shape of the VX220 sports car. Developed
in association with Lotus and carrying a lot of Lotus Elise in its DNA profile,
the new two-seater will go on sale in Europe later this year after first
appearing as a concept at Geneva last year. Power for the open-topped, 140-mph
two-seater comes from a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine built in the U.S. There
are those who say that some of those engines will be
heading back home again at some time in the not-too-distant future. Rumor has it that a U.S.-spec version of the car will sell under one of GM's hotter nameplates.
The Renault stand will show one more production version of a previous concept. The Avantime, also due on the market later this year, is the French manufacturer's take on a long-distance high-speed road cruiser. Designed to take on the role created by the classic GT cars of the past, the Avantime combines 140-mph performance with the style and convenience of a luxury MPV — with just four seats.