Twenty years ago, amid massive consolidation in the industry (think Premier Automotive Group, the Renault Nissan Alliance and Daimler-Chrysler to name but a few), the general consensus was that there would, before too long, be just five automotive concerns the world over. An American one, a couple of Europeans, a Japanese and then perhaps a Korean one. Its seems at the time journalists had not picked up China on the radar screen back then.
Fast forward to now and this year’s Geneva Show, the underlying trend of electrification was ably supported by a number of new start ups. The barriers to market entry for these new concerns twenty years ago (a major one being the lost-count-of-the-zeros level of investment required to develop a unique powertrain) are simply gone. If you combine that with the latest generation of car buyers being less and less attracted to the traditional brands then you have a perfect revolution taking place before our very eyes:
Twenty years ago, Mate Rimac, founder of Rimac Automobili was still in short trousers but now, his EV Hypercar C_TWO, all 1,914hp and $2m of it and oh-so-close to production was a clear star of the show. Twin brother under the skin and with equal top billing was the Pininfarina Battista; the long-established design house launching its first full car as an EV.
Further down the price range but with a still-impressive 396hp was the Polestar 2, follow up to, you guessed it, the Polestar 1. This Tesla Model 3 rival is dripping with crisp Scandinavian Design and, as always with Polestar, housed at the show in a particularly airy whitespace-type lounge.
Not to be outdone by the upstart start-ups, Audi was out in force with the beautifully-resolved E-Tron Sportback.
Even further down the price range was Citroen, resurrecting the ‘Ami’ name for a two-seater EV study for future mobility
So, we’re five cars into the review without even mention of an internal combustion engine. Must be the trend of the show then…
Reassuringly perhaps was Bentley, with the Continental Number 9 Edition by Mulliner, housing the Crewe-built W12 petrol engine. Celebrating Bentley Boy Sir Tim Birkin’s Blower Bentley and including 18 carat gold organ stops, this is perhaps one of the last great internal-combustion-driven Grand Tourers from Crewe, for whom electric power is also just around the corner. I suppose that the CO2 impact of just 100 cars is minimal…
Roughly, roughly (but who’s counting??) at the same point in the pricing chart is Ferrari, showcasing the new and very pretty F8 Tributo. Not to be outdone by its British rival, Its 720PS is now an exact match for the McLaren 720S. Who’d have thought it?
Over on the Aston Martin stand it was difficult not to be impressed by the continuing onslaught of new, beautiful and highly desirable new metal in the forms of the son-of-Valkyrie AM-RB 003 Hypercar (pictured), due on sale in 2021 and the Vanquish Vision Concept; a 2022-ready mid-engined Supercar rival to McLaren, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
Towards the entry-level of the market were two launches of new models with stalwart nameplates; the new Peugeot 208 and the new Renault Clio. The 208’s fairly chunky styling lending the car perhaps more road presence than its predecessor, whereas over at Renault the new Clio’s revolution was apparently on the inside, though, to my eyes, that wasn’t a problem at all. Renault clearly didn’t need to fix what wasn’t broken here.
So, a great show, packed full of significant debuts. Geneva remains resolutely the place to be for the industry, with no sign of that trend abating. I’m sure that there will be a time in the not-too-distant-future when electrification ceases to be a ‘thing’ too and we all stop talking about it. I think that point in time will be sooner than we think…