This year’s edition of the International Motor Show in Geneva is already in full swing, a few days before the public arrive.
Yesterday was Press Day 1 and it was busy.
Last year I was lucky enough to have a press pass, but could only go for the larger part of Press Day 1. This year I’m better prepared and will attend both Press Days and part of the first public day on Thursday.
If I had to summarise the first press day I’d say that the focus seems to be quite heavily on electric vehicles and (eventually) autonomous driving. But not all companies are interested. Mazda certainly stood out with their statement that they will not be focusing on electric, autonomous driving, because surveys have shown that 2/3 of drivers want to drive themselves, even if autonomous driving is available and that they still firmly believe in the petrol engine. So, Mazda concludes, they will keep on improving the petrol engine and supply products for this demand.
Enter SkyActiv-X, a new version of Mazda’s SkyActiv engine, but now with fuel compression. They claim that will bring even better fuel efficiency. I am quite interested in that. I currently drive my second Mazda and from the previous generation to the current one fuel economy has improved considerably.
The new Lexus UX.
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Lexus is of course known for their hybrid vehicles, but will be venturing into the world of autonomous and fully electric vehicles. Their presentation had a large emphasis on their Limitless range, of which the newly presented Lexus UX (see above) is one of the models. The term ‘Limitless’ refers to the fact that you can choose any power unit Lexus provides and they will build it into your Lexus of choice. That gives quite some flexibility and I can see why they hope to reach 100,000 cars sold in Europe within a few years time.
Ford has presented their new cars, including a new Mustang which is a celebration of a very famous car (Bullit, anyone?). I did go see it and, to be honest, I’m not impressed. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think the old American muscle cars were more interesting than their more modern successors. Unfortunately that is the case here. From the front the car looks rather bland, without character. From the rear it’s yet another Mustang. No innovation there at all. And it doesn’t hold a candle to the original, no matter how many family members of Steve McQueen they throw at it. Sorry, Ford, try again.
Volkswagen is slowly becoming one of my favourites. I was never a fan before, but since the CC and now the Arteon they have my attention.
The new I.D. Vizzion concept stood out. This concept is an electric car with autonomous driving abilities, however, VW claim it has artificial intelligence. As an example: it should be able to calculate (‘see’) where the road markings are (or should be, if they are vague, damaged or missing) and keep the car on the road in the correct lane. As they explained it in the brochure: other autonomous cars have loads of programming code to account for all possibilities you may encounter on the road. If the programmers miss any eventuality, you have a problem. Volkswagen have therefore tried to make their car more intelligent and self-learning (this is getting scary, right?) to ensure it can truly handle every situation. I would love to see that in action!
The Volkswagen I.D. Vizzion concept.
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Let’s look at Toyota. They too are looking to go further and further into hybrid and electric vehicle creation. Autonomous cars are also on the map. They brought several concepts (called ‘i-Drive’). The thing is that most companies, like Toyota, bring concepts, but you can’t actually try the cars yet. So the experience may still be far away. Toyota found a way around that, after a fashion.
They brought a virtual experience which allows you to be in the self-driving car (first in the front seat, then in the back) and see what it would be like. The surroundings presented to you are not very realistic, but you do get a feel of what it would be like. The Fine-Comfort Ride concept allows everyone to turn their seats so they would be able to have a meeting in the car while it takes them to their destination. The windows can be used for presentations etc. Cutting edge, it would seem, but I wonder how far away this is?
I know there are companies that already provide glass/windows with technology that allows you to manipulate the display etc., but to build that into a car?
Interesting stuff, nonetheless.
Last, but never least: I had a look at the new and bigger Aston Martin stand. They promised surprises and they brought them.
I have to be honest, the Vantage race car was revealed alongside the road going version some weeks ago, so not much of a surprise there. And we were already told about the Valkyrie track version (AMR Pro, what else?). But I think no one had yet seen the track Valkyrie. The bright colour and additional wing and fin look great on her, but I am mostly curious about the specs. The road going Valkyrie is insane, to say the least, so how much more can this version do? It has not yet been revealed, unfortunately.
The new Lagonda concept car.
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I guess the main surprise was the Lagonda concept car. The aim is to revive Lagonda as a fully electric luxury brand and the cars will be autonomous.
I managed to have a closer look at the car and I have to admit I’m not that impressed. Yes, it’s big (a bonus in my books), but it is not very good looking. Of course everyone has their opinion. The car was greeted with several whoops from the attending press, so quite a few people like it. Let’s keep in mind this is a concept, so at this point it’s hard to tell what it will look like when it’s about to go into production.
Apparently this car was created from the inside out. Again, I am not sure what to think. It seems very minimalistic inside, I’d even say rather empty. I don’t find it very inviting at all. But of course this is due to my taste. I like big cars to have bulky interiors. I find that those look comfortable (and usually are). The large open space in the new Lagonda is strange to me. At this point I can’t say if I simply have to get used to it or if I will never like it. Time will tell.
So far the Geneva International Motor Show has given me plenty of things to think about, but mainly about electric and autonomous cars. I am a petrolhead. I prefer the smell of petrol, the roar of the engine and I love driving. I fully expect to have an electric car at some point, if the government gets their way at the times they currently envision to make electric cars compulsory. At this time I’m not looking forward to it, even though I am fascinated by the progress being made. I also wonder what brands like Mazda are going to do if electric becomes compulsory. Will they come to the party too late or do they have a trick or two up their sleeves? Or, perhaps, they will pull out of the European market? I doubt that, but the future is fairly uncertain and very interesting!