Eight things we learned at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show
The 2015 Geneva Motor Show has taught us a lot. Here are the eight key things the show told us
In the wake of the thermonuclear new car explosion that was the 2015 Geneva Motor Show press day, we now know more than we did about cars and the global motor industry that builds them.
This was a major international motor show so as usual, the biggest and most prestigious car brands around put on the best product displays they could muster, while the world's auto press corps jostled, circled and sweated under the brow-melting spotlights. Auto Express was out in force snapping and scribbling with the best of them, wading through the releases, soaking up the speeches and finding time to tease those crucial nuggets of info from tight-lipped executives.
The cars at Geneva 2015 were undeniably great, with some saying it was one of the best hauls ever. But here we're taking a step back, hunting for overarching trends we can lift from the hubub. Here's what we learned from the Geneva Motor Show 2015…
It was a motor show of two halves
Geneva 2015 can probably go down as one of the most spectacular shows in recent memory, but there was a detectable split in the new car ranks. It felt as though worthy new production models, cars that people like you and I might possibly consider buying one day, were overshadowed by the incredible, unobtainable flights of fancy.
It didn't help that Geneva 2015 lacked a massive mainstream production car debut in the mould of a new Volkswagen Golf or Ford Fiesta. It could offer big launches like the Vauxhall Viva, Skoda Superb, Renault Kadjar and the Honda Jazz in European guise, but these cars couldn't command the camera lenses in the way that major new supercars and concepts from Aston Martin, Ferrari, McLaren and Bentley inevitably could.
Even volume-selling brands like Ford (GT and Focus RS), Honda (Civic Type R) and Audi (R8 and RS3) led with hardcore, low-volume performance models emphasising the split between ordinary and exotic. The exotic won the hype war at Geneva, but we know which camp will have the last laugh when the sales figures emerge at the end of 2015.
You can keep a secret, or at least Aston Martin can
There aren't many genuine surprises at the modern motor show, with the motoring press usually tipped off about what's coming. Even when they're not, details of new cars have a habit of leaking out long before the covers are withdrawn. That makes Aston Martin's achievement with the DBX crossover concept car at Geneva all the more remarkable.
The first most people knew about the Aston Martin DBX at Geneva was when a dust-sheeted shape appeared on the stand, looking suspiciously taller than the usual super-sleek Aston GT. Sure enough, Aston Martin had sneaked in a luxury crossover GT concept and stolen the limelight from the competition. We even spoke to one Aston Martin exec who claimed to have no idea the DBX was a going to be in Geneva until it was. Now that's a genuine secret.
The internet is everywhere
While frazzled journalists in Geneva considered swapping their plane tickets home for a functioning WiFi password, the cars on the stands had the internet seeping out through their panel gaps. The truly connected car may not be commonplace yet, but if the Geneva exhibits were anything to go by, you can rest assured that it will be and soon.
From mobile phone mirroring tech to full mobile WiFi hotspots and web browsing, there was scarcely a production car at the show that didn't integrate the internet in some form. Jeep probably took the prize for most over-the-top car tech when it fitted the Renegade Hard Steel concept with a matching trailer that had a giant rear-facing touchscreen TV. It raised the intreguing possibility of other motorists following you to catch the end of the programme they're watching.
The technology obviously has its pros and cons in cars, but it's also emerging as a point of differentiation for consumers. Would committed Apple iPhone and iPad users buy a car that uses a Google Android based operating system and visa-versa? They'd definitely think twice.
The cars are taking control, slowly
Technology might be set to let drivers stay online more in the car, but will it one day let them take a nap or do the ironing? The march of autonomous car tech could be felt on the stands at Geneva but the manufacturers were reluctant to predict a definitive time when cars become soulless white boxes that ferry us from A to B then take themselves off to find a parking space.
In the short term, autonomous technology in cars means active safety systems that take control to avert impending accidents. Emergency autonomous braking is already widely available from manufacturers like Volvo, Nissan and Ford but speaking at Geneva, Renault Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn indicated that the next stage is technology to take control of the car in motorway traffic jams, keeping pace with the car in front and even changing lanes if instructed to do so by the driver. The truly driverless car on sale to the public is still more than a decade away, probably longer.
Geneva gives you wings
What will be remembered about the 2015 Geneva show when the names of the concepts and the crippling price of parking have long since slipped from the memory? I'll venture that visitors to the show will still be able to close their eyes in a quiet moment and visualise the huge slab-like carbon fibre appendages that so many of the show stars had clamped on the back.
The Mercedes-AMG GT3, Aston Martin Vulcan, Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Lamborghini Aventador SV, McLaren P1 GTR… these machines sported some of the biggest wings you'll see outside of an albatross rescue centre. Even the rather more down to earth Honda Civic Type R had a vast sun-obscuring tea tray attachment at the rear. At Geneva 2015, the wing was king.
If you've got a premium brand, you might as well put it to work
For a car manufacturer, a 'premium' brand is basically a licence to charge a bit (or a lot) more for your cars. Understandably, everyone wants one, but at Geneva 2015 we saw the firms who already have premium status putting it to harder work.
Of course, diversification in the car market is nothing new; model ranges have expanded like never before in recent years, but there's always been a question of how far the most prestigious marques are willing to push it. At Geneva the answer seemed to be "quite a bit further". We saw Aston Martin deliver the aforementioned DBX luxury crossover concept, a car that represents a tentative toe dipped into the water of a super- luxury SUV sector that Rolls-Royce and Bentley are already wading into without pause to remove their blazers.
On a slightly less grand scale, BMW underlined its commitment to offering the 'ultimate driving machine' to buyers of front-wheel drive, seven-seat MPVs with its 2 Series Gran Tourer. And Lexus, meanwhile, unveiled a tiny city car concept in the shape of the LF-SA. There's no indication a production car will follow but the idea points to a shift in the way brands like this are thinking in terms of how far their premium power can stretch across the market.
1,000bhp is no longer a lot (although clearly it is)
The horsepower arms race is not a new phenomenon but the Geneva Motor Show managed to escalate it to new levels of absurdity. Was this the show where 1,000bhp stopped sounding like a ridiculous amount of power to have in a car?
When the likes of the McLaren P1, Porsche's 918 Spider and the Ferrari LaFerrari peppered the 1,000bhp barrier last year we though hypercar power ratings had entered the stratosphere. At Geneva we saw the last La Finale edition of the 1,184bhp Bugatti Veyron, the 987bhp McLaren P1 GTR and the NanoFlowcell Quant F concept, an electric car with a claimed 1,075bhp. That was fair enough, but then Koenigsegg made a mockery of the whole thing.
The Swedish firm unveiled the Regera 'megacar', with its 1,782bhp output and a claimed 0-248mph time of 20 seconds. If you feel like you need to go off and have a lie down now, please do.
Cars are still fun!
They might never command huge numbers in terms of sales, but the fast and exotic car crop at Geneva 2015 was great for the committed petrolhead. Not only did the likes of McLaren's P1 GTR, Aston Martin's Vulcan and the Mercedes-AMG GT3 provide ample opportunity for slack-jawed gawping and obsessing over performance figures, they showed that enthusiasts are still at the heart of the industry's thinking.
Who else but an enthusiast pays north of £1m for an insane 1,000bhp hypercar you can only legally drive on a track? That's a fair question, but in the age of multiplying speed cameras, tightening emissions legislation and ever worsening traffic congestion, it often feels like the fun is slipping out of motoring. Cars like the these and many others at Geneva 2015 prove it's still there, and that car makers understand the importance of fostering a love of cars in the public.
Get the full report on the 2015 Geneva Motor Show here