2005 Geneva Show: TCC’s Top Picks

March 5, 2005

2005 Geneva Motor Show Index by TCC Team (2/28/2005)

Best New Concept: Okay, there were plenty of really good concepts in Geneva, like the Dodge Caliber, Honda Civic Concept, and Peugeot’s 407 Concept Coupe, but most were just thinly-disguised production vehicles. Nothing compared with Pininfarina’s truly over-the-top remake of the legendary Maserati Birdcage. Of course, I wouldn’t mind seeing it built, either.

Best New Production Car: If you’re talking limited-production, I’m in love with Aston Martin’s DB9. In the mainstream, Toyota’s stylishly simply Aygo caught this reporter’s eye. It’s another step in the Japanese maker’s long-haul effort to duplicate its American success in Europe.

Most Significant Production Vehicle: I may get some letters for this one, but I’m going to give the nod to the new Cadillac BLS. Caddy has been frantic to gain traction in the European market. This Saab-built sedan could be a make-or-break venture for America’s classic luxury brand.

Best Press Conference: Dodge. Again. Actually, the introduction of the Caliber was one of the automaker’s best auto show events in quite some time. Special honors, in the good sport category, have to go to Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche, who could only hope he wouldn’t be impaled by a falling shard of glass.

Worst Press Conference: Fiat’s introduction of the Croma. The opening comments, meant to sound defiant actually came across as desperate. So did the bizarre “unveiling,” executed sans curtains. Instead, a dozen dancers held up chromed cardboard sheets and floundered around onstage wearing bizarre, stapled-and-taped costumes Ed Wood wouldn’t have settled for in Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Who's On Top: Wow, Japan, the U.S., and now Europe. The automaker is ready to roll past the one million mark. Is there anything that can stop Toyota’s global blitz?

Who's In The Barrel: The real question is, who’s standing on whose shoulders? Clearly on the bottom is Fiat which, despite GM’s $2 billion payoff, shows no signs of turning things around soon. There’s Volkswagen, which desperately needs to turn things around if it hopes to remain Europe’s market-share leader. And there’s Mercedes. Lots of new products, lots of nice designs. Now get costs and quality in line or watch buyers run for competing showrooms.

Personal Best: If you’re talking product, give kudos to the Ford SAV, a show car we’d love to see in production. When it comes to car makers, the gold statuette goes to the global alliance between Nissan and Renault. Or maybe it should be platinum. How did a combination of Japan’s most troubled manufacturer and a French carmaker become the world’s most profitable automotive operation? If only company policy allowed us to own shares!

Prediction for 2005: The general consensus is that European sales will be flat for 2005, or grow only a modest couple percent, at best. I predict the continent will become the sort of competitive battleground we’ve seen in the U.S., and just like the situation on the other side of the Atlantic, imports will gobble up record share. Toyota bigger than Fiat in European sales? Probably not this year, but it won’t be long.

Biggest News Story: Okay, it did take place a couple weeks before Geneva press days, but despite all the other news coming out of this year’s show, the most frequently-discussed topic still seemed to be the $2 billion settlement of the GM-Fiat dispute. It takes time for it to really sink in when a company like General Motors screws up that badly.

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