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Geneva motor show 2010: the CAR Live blog

Tue, 02 Mar 2010 00:00:00 -0800

Welcome to the CAR Live Blog – bringing you all the action live from the 2010 Geneva motor show floor. Read on for updates of all the news, unveilings and launches as they happen 24/7, reported by Tim Pollard (TP), Ben Pulman (BP), Sarah-Jayne Harrison (SJH) and CAR reader reporter Mark Hamilton (MH) who's flown in from New Zealand especially for the show. NB We'll be adding the latest Geneva motor show posts at the top in blog format, so read from the bottom up for the correct chronology. All times are local Swiss o'clock

Tuesday 2 March 2010

5.58pm: End of day one
BP That's about it from the CAR team today, but we'll be back tomorrow rounding up all the weird and wonderful stuff that's always present at the Geneva show, from mad tuner cars to oddball electrics vehicles. We hope you've enjoyed our coverage.

5.53pm: This puzzle can't fit... Can it?
MH Fiat Group have the end-of day press shows and it begins with Olivier Francois using the power of advertising and switching between Italian and English to persuade us that these two distinctive brands are made for each other like the puzzle-piece stand theme. I'll need to see some pretty compelling concepts to see this as anything other than a marriage of corporate inconvenience.

5.20pm: The FT86 is so cool!
MH In '91 I first visited the Toyota Amlux showroom in Tokyo. There was no shortage of illustrious performance nameplates: Sprinter Trueno, Celica GT4, Supra, Soarer, MR2. But when I visited last year there was nothing on display bar the Ill-fated F1 car. So this car means a lot. Unfortunately, it's on a closed display so – again – my plan to test the dashboard's interior zips is thwarted.

5.16pm: Giving off a bad Auris
MH What we in Australasia call a Carolla you call an Auris, and there is a hybrid version to be made in the UK. I wonder how many will choose an invisible hybrid Auris versus a look-at-me-Prius?

5.08pm: This could be awkward...
MH Toyota press conference starts with an apology and frank acknowledgement of the various recall issues suffered by Toyota in the past month. Capacity for 50,000 repairs per day, with all vehicles currently in the sales system to be fixed by mid-March. Aim is to have 90%+ of all of Europe's recall repairss done by the end of July. It's thirsty work this reporting lark, so I blag some drinks from the Toyota bar. There's Prius juice too, just like that dreadful Zoom-Zoom drink from the LA auto show. I'll let you know if it affects my acceleration and braking.

4.47pm: At Renault, avec headset
MH Last year I don't recall seeing as many press sessions providing simultaneous interpreting via headsets, but it is welcome. Clio Gordinis will be available in June for those who must have their Clio RS in blue and white. Hopefully we can see a brief comparison with CAR's long-term Green Goblin Clio. Now it's the Wind, a car that looks alright from some angles and very wrong from others.

4.35pm: The Koreans do BBQ too, you know
MH I'm listening to Ed Welburn talk us around the Aveo RS concept as Maximum Bob Lutz looks on. I have a hard time reconciling these GM Daewoos with the Corvettes and Camaro sharing space on the display, but there are probably Ford F150 drivers who don't think a Fiesta is really a Ford either.

4.25pm: The long day gets longer
MH I should be listening to Renault right now but it's Subaru president Ikuo Mori telling us about the current situation with his firm. I've been a Subaru fan over the years, but while Subaru is indeed sticking with its core technology distinctiveness, I wish they'd return to rallying and stop hitting their cars quite so hard with the ugly stick. Another maker putting Ira hatchbacks on stilts, with the Impreza XV.

3.47pm: The real man behind the Porsche 918 Spyder
BP Quick chat with the man behind Porsche's supercar project, who tells me that the 918 Spyder will probably be the first electric/hybrid sports car from the company, but it's by no means the last. Dealers are taking 'expressions of interest' already, we hear.

3.25pm: Drive @ Earth?
MH Now I'm at Mitsubishi, PSA's friendly supplier of electric cars and SUVs. Standing next to the PX-MiEV (nice in profile, less-so from the front) when Osamu Misuko takes the stage and presents the required eco mantra before unveiling the ASX compact crossover. Now I like the Lancer Evolution X styling, but I didn't realise it was going to be the nose for the entire range...

3.15pm: Refuel and go
MH A quick stop back at the media centre to check in with Tim and co, then it's back to the floor. Infiniti shows its M37 Hybrid, and Dacia shows off the production Duster (one of those cars people will actually buy, in spite of enthusiasts largely ignoring it).

2.30pm: Hyundai goes with the flow
MH Eisun Chung, vice chairman of Hyundai, is presenting the BlueDrive eco line and announces a determination for Hyundai to become leaders in automotive telematics. It makes sense, given the strength Korean firms have in consumer electronics. Hyundai is pushing ahead with both diesel-hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell powertrains, with the fuel-cell system going into limited production in 2012 with consumer sales projected for 2015. Now it's the new warranty plan, then the iFlow concept. Hyundai says its fluidic sculpture features bionic design. The technical term is busily styled.

2.20pm: In the shadow of the Prancing Horse
MH Luca de Montezemolo is leading a Ferrari presentation where the green car is not just a paint option – KERS and hybrid drive feature on the 599 HY, developed in conjunction with their major suppliers (Bosch, Magnetti Marelli, Getrag, Delphi and others). It's designed to be a Ferrari with hybrid drive with none of the weight penalty.

2.00pm: Does Harald Wester have the coolest job in the automotive industry?
MH I'm at Maserati, which has no major new models (of the vehicular kind anyway) but remains a landmark for visitors to the show. As with Jaguar, special editions and last year's new models take the stage. With Harald Wester now running Maserati, Alfa and Abarth, I can't help thinking that at the very least he must have an excellent selection of company cars.

1.50pm: Damn the Torpedos
MH Audi spokescelebrity and McDonalds jingle writer Justin Timberlake has appeared to introduce the new A1. Rather than offer a rendition of Sexy Back, he has handed over to a Swedish guitar band named Torpedo. Perhaps they were cheaper? Or perhaps the grumpy-faced A1 isn't that seductive. I'm off to Maserati where that shouldn't be an issue.

2.07pm: The new owners of Saab
TP An absolutely fascinating half hour with Spyker, and now Saab, owner Victor Muller. He candidly answers every question and I'm left with plenty of admiration for this plucky Dutchman. He brushes aside Brit journos' scepticism over Spyker's plans for Saab and claims that Saab will break even by 110,000 cars a year. Last year they made just 39,000 but in the good days six-figure sales were the norm. He confirms the new 9-4X crossover for 2011, a new 9-3 ('which we still have time to make more Saaby') in 2012 and – perhaps – a new 9-2 Mini rival some time after that. Would they build the Aero X supercar? It could be done with Spyker low-volume knowledge, but falls far, far down Saab's priority list. As it should. There's a new confidence on the Saab stand and I like the people at the top. They know what makes Saab Saab, and I trust them to give the turnaround their best shot.

1.40pm: It's THE Stig
MH Stig Blomqvuist delivers Audi chief Rupert Stadtler on stage in an Ur Quattro rally car. I am in the far comer of the Audi stand which has far fewer lights than last year, perhaps reflecting that fire they had in Detroit? Now the RS5 has appeared but mean machine that it is, I can't see them rallying it anytime soon. Where's our real Quattro anniversary present?

1.32pm: New models at Lamborghini
MH Apparently there's a Superleggera Gallardo somewhere in front of the media scrum Stefan Winkelmann is performing to, but from here all I
can see is that there are new spokesmodels for 2010, in fashionable bronzed tones. No word on prices and availability. The Gallardo is featured in Incredible Hulk Lime, thus continuing VW Group's commitment to green tech. Quite.

1.20pm: Bentley goes green
MH With VW shows running late, I'm here at Bentley listening to CEO Paefgen talking about the Mulsanne and announcing flex-fuel capability
on all Continentals from 2012. So here's the Supersports Convertible in a mild shade of guacamole. But no hybrid! Where is my blue ribband
Bluemotion Bentley? I guess it's wherever the overhead cams went on the Mulsanne engine.

1.15pm: Batteries flat at Skoda
MH I'm tired out, so grab a moment's rest by the Skoda Fabia S2000 rally car while the VW Group eco tech and drivetrains are rehashed and
presented again.

12.55pm: It's not a Murcielago, but...
MH Luc Donckerwolke comes on stage to present the IBE electric shooting brake. He describes the front fender's 'sexiness' but appears to run out of enthusiasm halfway through. More like he got a hurry-up because the VW press conferences are running a full 15 minutes late!

12.47pm: Standing when I should be seated
MH James Muir is introduing sporty Seat's new Ibiza...wagon. I'm standing next to the identity crisis that is the Exeo sedan. 'Less emissions, more emotions' is Seat's Eco slogan, but sadly this leads to a talk about Ecomotive, not Cupra R. They're field-testing plug-in hybrids in Madrid and Barcelona by the end of 2010 – see the wedgy new IBE.

12.25pm: Blinded by the lights
MH I'm burning under the whiter-than-white glare of the VW pavilion. Amidst all the Bluemotion talk I'll focus on the Amarok pick-up truck. Could this sober-looking ute be a Hilux killer on top of Toyota's other woes? Technical director Uli Hackenberg now introducing the new Touareg, available with all eco-friendly buzzwords for the modern mid-upper class lifestyle. They focused on sustainability... I hear it's a bit of a trend these days. Golf and Polo on stilts next as the niche-filling continues.

12.13pm: Wow!
BP Porsche's 918 Spyder might be stealing the show but Bertone has turned up with an incredible Alfa 8C-based concept car. Called the Pandion, it has two enormous, rear-hinged suicide doors, while the front and rear bumpers are filled with what looks like shards of glass. Easily the most visually stunning car at Geneva. We'll have some pictures up tonight.

12.00pm: Ghosn for crossover gold
MH Carlos Ghosn is on stage and prompts mention of the Juke by pointing out Nissan has sold 200,000 Qashqais. But first the new Micra, debuting Nissan's global V platform for compact vehicles. It's no Juke, and tones down the distinctiveness of its immediate predecessor.

11.43am: Maximum Bob in maximum mode
TP Spent some time with GM flag bearer Bob Lutz. He's interesting on the culture change at GM – reckons that under old GM every decision went to the board and required at least three meetings by senior staff. 'We now just have one meeting and much of the responsibility is handed down to those best equipped to deal with it,' he says. New GM is a nimbler company as a result, he reckons. What will make Americans change their buying habits? Fuel prices. He points out that US sales will hit 11.5-12 million this year, although a freezing February has set them back massively. 'It snowed in every one of the 51 states – and that's never happened before,' says Bob.

11.30am: The Power of Broken Dreams
MH Ben Pulman's U3X mobility unicycle from Tokyo opens the Honda booth presentation. Honda's motto is 'mobility products that provide fun and convenience'. Honda has developed a compact solarpowered hydrogen generating station prototype, which could be installed at home for refueling your FCX Clarity. Sounds... explosive? The CRZ is launched, I think the dancer fell over during the unveil which sums up feeling about the car.

11.20am: Zoom-zoom time
MH Where did the Flow design mantra zoom-zoom off to? Mazda's CEO Mr Yamanoucho continues his global tour to speak of the brand and reminds us it's Mazda's 90th anniversary. As well as the European launch of the efficient Sky G & Sky D engines (arriving in production 2011-2012), Mazda continues to put faith in weight saving and optimisation of conventional technology. Oops, sorry, there are the start-stop & hybrid buzzwords. It seems a shame to say the new Mazda 5's 'Nagare' flow language features are imperceptible under the show stand, but sadly so.

11.10am: One Focus for all
MH Derick Kuzak, Ford's global product supremo is over in Geneva, and explaining to us 30-something journalists that a performance Focus is coming, will be sold internationally and tie-in with further global moves in motorsports. That Europe-only model? The next Focus wagon. Looks incredibly like a shrunken Mondeo, no?

10.55am: A supercar called Zonda 
BP Pagani hasn't got a press conference scheduled for today, but it does a have a new car here: the Zonda Tricolore. Based on the Zonda Cinque, the one-off Tricolore has a 671bhp V12, weighs just 1210kg and hits 62mph in 3.4 seconds. Between the Tricolore and the Cinque Roadster on the Italian company's stand, Pagani might have the most expensive square footage at the 2010 Geneva show.

10.45am: Cygnet under wraps
MH I have secured a ringside seat for the reveal of Aston's controversial ugly duckling, the Toyota iQ-based Cygnet. Dr Bez takes the stage & reports a modest profit last year while name-checking the Rapide, One-77 and the V12 Vantage. Shareholders have asked Bez to stay on for another 10 years, he has agreed. Now takes a dig at 30-something journos critical of entry and egress with the Rapide, saying he has no problem at his age. Now the Cygnet: 'right, sensible and intelligent addition to a performance car or large limousine'. The jury is out on that one.

10.43am: Food!
BP Just had my first sustinence of the day – a Smint. That's better.

10.40am: 75 years of Jaguar
MH The XKR perfomance packs are a fairly modest way to commemorate 75 years since the SS100 but with new XJs just on their way to customers and the new ALMS GT2, the current range still has some appeal. Arguably the highlight is the new executive line-up, new JLR CEO Speth flanked by Ravi Kant and Carl-Peter Forster.

10.25am: Alfa what?
BP Back on the press conference trail and over to Pininfarina to see its Alfa concept. It's called the 2uettottanta and should signal a future design direction. But it's not the looks Alfa needs help with, but the chassis of its cars.

10.15am: Peugeot, not Pug-ugly from now on?
MH Over at Peugeot, good-looking cars are here again. For their bicentenary Peugeot (apparently best-selling French nameplate worldwide last year – thank you Europcar?) offers the SR1 and 5 concepts for people like me who missed the Pininfarina days. Was that so hard? By the looks of all the gaping-mouthed production cars on the booth, yes – yes, it was.

10.10am: Hot Swedes
MH To a riot of bass-heavy electronical and lights, CEO Stephen Odell launches the production S60. Volvo is looking to sell 60,000 per year. And here's Peter Horbury to talk us around Steve Mattin's baby. 'Immensely proud' father of original S60 doing a remarkably quick segue into talking about the new chassis...

9.55am: Spyker and Abarth
BP After my long chat at Lotus, I've managed to miss Spyker and Abarth's press conferences. The former didn't have anything new (though the Aileron and its prototype sister are rather lovely) and the in-house Fiat tuner had Abarth versions of the 500 and Punto Evo.

9.45am: Those Mad Hatters at Mini
MH Some may wish Ian Robertson leaves the giant hats over the Countryman concept on the Mini booth. 'Be Mini' is the new global catchphrase, epitomising go-kart handling, endless customisation and...clever use of space? Minimalism is their efficiency line. Countryman launch starts with giant hats off & dancers. My god now they're country line dancing to a remix of 'word up' I am clearly not the target market.

9.35am: Lots at Lotus
BP Over to Lotus for its presentation, and an in-depth chat with the company's director of product engineering, Paul Newsome. He talks me round the Evora 414E Hybrid, and promises me that hybrid cars are a part of the company's future. Items like stop/start aren't though – the Elise and Evora are already class leaders in efficiency terms so there's no need. There's also a white Evora on display, complete with a full carbon pack inside and out. The car is a concept but the hope is to offer all the bits and pieces soon, and all bar the carbon roof will be available as a retro-fit option. Newsome also tells me Lotus has yet to make a decision on the type of roof a convertible Evora will use; it's still a little way off and there's other Evora news due at the end of the year. Plus Lotus are racing in Indycar this year with Cosworth and the two companies are teaming up to develop road car engines. Phew!

9:30am: Joy is not shouting
MH At BMW the Efficient Dynamics mantra is now over a year old, and chief Norbert Reithofer starts with the familiar sermon of sustainability. Now the new 5 sedans take the stage, the Active Hybrid being the centerpiece. Mini E and Active E join the show, with only the 5 Hybrid's aggressive alloys offering some joy for old M car fans like myself.

9.25am: Schumacher, Backmacher & Dr. Z
MH After meeting up with Ben P, I'm at Mercedes, where the F1 drivers have driven up in the SLS safety car. Sorry Kubrick and MPI, the poor sense of humour stereotype is getting no help here as the cheesy jokes keep on coming. Who is writing Dieter Z's dialogue!? Now it's all gone Cirque du Soleil as acrobats descend from the ceiling to launch the E300 BlueTech hybrid. The F800 Style is up next, I'm interested in the drivetrains but don't care for the styling. I look at the impressive display of engines on the way over to BMW instead.

9.21am: Koenigsegg and carbonfibre jewellery
BP Up first is Koenigsegg, and the reason for its sudden decision not to buy Saab becomes clear. It's spent all its cash developing a new set of sleeker headlights (complete with LEDs) for its 900bhp Agera supercar. Also present is a horrible set of carbonfibre jewellery. Don't do it.

9.17am: SLS F1 safety car a laughing matter
BP Having left Mark laughing at the SLS F1 safety car I'm off to join the alternative press conference trail that takes in the Italian design houses and a few sports car makers. Should be fun.

9.01am: Kia boss Peter Schreyer
BP Kia's design boss Peter Schreyer appears on stage to tell us all about the Sportage's design, but I can't help thinking it's not up to scratch. The orange colour is very bright so it stands out but the Soul was finished before he arrived, and everything since (Venga and facelifted Ceed) has been a bit disappointing.

8.50am: Kia Ora Sportage
MH A kiwi hello to the scrappy scrappage crusaders from Korea. A 20% global sales jump in 2009 gives excellent momentum for the new Sportage, which Peter Schreyer is 'rather proud of'. Even that giant C pillar, Peter?

8.45am: Morning all
BP After a late night writing until 2am and an early start, I'm off to meet Mark Hamilton on the Kia stand. I've failed to procure breakfast for either of us, so despite the new Sportage being revealed to excite us, we might already be flagging.

8.40am: A visual riot at Citroen
MH It's as if a graphics software package exploded on the Citroen stand, spraying lines, brightwork and patterns over the concept cars, particularly the Survolt sportscar, taking the Revolte's lemon-sucking visage, smearing it onto a sports car and drizzling it liberally in sci-fi graphics. Et voilà! Instant over-30s eye pain!

8.15am: Spyder Men
MH At the Porsche booth for the 918 unveil, Emperor Piech is in attendance. Video shows 911 hybrid racer, tagline Porsche Intelligent Performance. It can't make the Cayenne hybrid look good, but tries its best. It's a powerful statement of intent the new 918 Spyder, and impressive looking too.

7.59am: The press conference schedule begins
TP It's nearly 8.00am and time to hear Build Your Dreams in action, followed by Porsche. The 918 Spyder is one of the big surprises of the show, but don't discount Chinese maker BYD.

7.12am: Accreditation queue
TP Amazingly, the whole CAR team converges at the same time. Office long 'un Ben Pulman is easy to spot and he's already bumped into Mark Hamilton (aka Car4mh) who's jetted in from New Zealand. Respect. Time to grab our tickets and queue up to get in to Geneva's Palexpo hall.

6.40am: Time to head to the show
TP Off to meet snapper Jamie Beeden and his assistant for some photography at the show. Full coverage to start soon, once we've battled through Geneva traffic. How ironic that motor shows always coincide with gridlock in most host cities...

Monday 1 March 2010

5.57pm: The web team arrive in Geneva
SJH Just arrived with a brief few minutes to upload Mark's trip, before I head off to a Nissan event in about four minutes! This is my first experience of the Geneva motor show – in case you hadn't noticed there appears to be a lot going on, so should be a good one.

4.30pm: Heathrow
MH Having made it through the transit area and grabbed a bite to eat, I've got three hours until my flight to Geneva departs. Now I have web access I also have to map out my route from the Geneva airport to my accommodation, as this year's rentacar budget precluded me from ticking the sat-nav option box. That's going to be entertaining.

8.35am: Still crossing Europe
MH Aided by a fortunate upgrade to premium economy, I have extra space and a power outlet to use my computer. So I'm taking the opportunity to finish off prep work for tomorrow's press day. If only I had web access as well, but at least I can claim reading car magazines is work-related, and that is worth savouring.

3.30am: Somewhere over the Russian Far East
MH Following a typically efficient train ride and the usual formalities, I'm now airborne on the first of two flights to get to Geneva. In a bit of
last-minute ticketing drama forced upon me and my travel agent by the Swiss, I'm flying over to London and then back to Geneva, which gives me plenty of time to enjoy the wonders of air travel. Sigh.

Sunday 28 February 2010

9:30am: Wake up, Mark-san
MH I'm in Tokyo, and it's 6.30am Monday here as I climb up off the futon (when in Tokyo do as the Tokyo-ites do, at least at the friend's flat where I've been staying for the weekend) and get ready for the trip to the airport. It's going to be a loooong day as the CAR team assembles in Geneva for the 2010 motor show.


By Tim Pollard, Ben Pulman, Mark Hamilton & Sarah-Jayne Harrison