Swings with the London Motor Show

July 22, 2008
Opel Insignia

Opel Insignia

What's it like to love cars in a city with traffic-clogged streets overrun by zero-emission taxis, underpinned by hundreds of miles of Underground trains, and encircled by four hugely congested airports--not to mention haunted by $8-a-gallon gasoline and the odd congestion tax?

The answer is, it's not easy to love cars--or even to drive them--here in London, but nonetheless, the city's 2008 motor show is drawing a bead on the press today. Only here, automakers are more likely to discuss new vehicles in terms of grams per kilometer than miles per hour, and in carbon emissions rather than 0-60-mph times.

Admittedly, London's show is a sidetrack from the usual international car-show scene, slightly afield and underpopulated compared to Tokyo, Geneva, Paris, and Frankfurt. If it weren't for other business, I likely wouldn't have made it myself, but this year's London show does have some interesting cars to show off. The Lotus Evora, which we've shown you, is the biggest introduction, measured by the interest of the press. Also in the lineup are the new Opel/Vauxhall Insignia mid-sizer; the production Ford Fiesta and a sporting Focus RS; the Alfa Romeo Mi.To; the Speed edition of the Bentley Continental Flying Spur; and a sleek roadster concept from Honda called the OSM.

So while it's hard to be enthusiastic about cars after a 25-stop Tube ride completely across town (are we in Holland yet?), it's easier in the airy halls of London eXceL, home of the show, among all the new sheetmetal. It's also a bit educational, if indeed the U.S. is heading toward a more European car sensibility. With all the news from General Motors last week on cuts to its truck programs and speeded-up car releases, and today's word that Ford will announce something similar on Thursday, it's ever more likely that America's fleet will start to resemble the rest of the world sooner, rather than later. For certain, the 2009 Detroit auto show will be much different from the testosterone duel between the Dodge Ram and Ford F-150 that took center stage at this year's Cobo Hall affair. The London show is a good preview for all of us at a world ruled by expensive oil.

There's much more to come today from London. Keep reading for more on the show, or you can follow the "Other Auto Shows" tag to see all the most recent reports.

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