Author Nualan O’Brien
Photo (c) Ferrari of the Ferrari 458 Special.
First Time at the Geneva Auto Salon
I left the illustrious Auto Salon in Geneva with a feeling that I have rarely at an event in Switzerland, namely “underwhelm”. Having written about the Geneva Car Expo for the last two years, I was excited to finally get to see it in 2014.
While I cannot claim to be wildly passionate about cars, having worked in the car hire business, I do know a reasonable amount about cars. I am, however passionate about well-run events. I appreciate the attention to detail, the creative elements or the sense of enthusiasm for a topic that conferences and events can generate.
What the Swiss do well, very well in fact is attention to quality, detail and innovation. While the event was logistically well organised, it lacked the element of surprise or having something extraordinarily memorable.
What is on show?
What does one see at the Auto Salon? There are six halls, one a conference centre and the other five have stands from the best known car brands in the world including: BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Citroen, Opel, Toyota. The luxury market was also well displayed: sleek Aston Martins, elegant jaguars, purring Porsches and stately Bentleys were on view. Some models like Jaguars and Landrovers were encircled in low-glass walls with only the ‘likely buyers’ being allowed to come in and sit in them. Other cars – more family type cars like the good-value Dacias and the spacious Mitsubishis were left open for folk to sit in them and test out the comfort of the seats.
Behind the larger stands there were teams of slender, elegant girls working as hostesses. While the ladies looked pretty in their matching uniforms, they also looked bored and shared the unmistakable look of “my feet are killing me” as they tottered around in their high heels.
Earlier this week, a few hostesses had been quoted in Blick about complaining about expo visitors asking for their mobile numbers. Did the girls know anything about the cars they were promoting? Were they all models hired in for the week? That is what it looked like. While female eye candy is not a new concept for selling cars it is certainly somewhat jaded and looked –dare I say it –vaguely sleazy.
Car of the Year and my Personal Favourite is…
In 2013, the car of the year was the latest VW Golf, this year it was the Peugeot 308.
No doubt the car tastes for all were met: for a man whose priority it is to have a vehicle dazzles and can go from 1 to 100 in 8 seconds like the Aston Martin Vanquish Volante convertible, or a lady looking for a ‘city slicker’ like the Renault Captur, or a family looking for people carrier like the Mitsubishi, there was plenty of choice.
There were also some partially or fully electric-powered cars on display. My personal favourite was Renault Twizy, a very cute battery powered two-seater. It is in fact classed as a “heavy quadracycle” not a car, somewhere between a scooter and a smart. Interestingly these battery-powered vehicles require a monthly battery payment as well, which will probably curtail their popularity.
Food for Thought
In fact the free “L’illustre” motor show magazine was the most interesting and informative part of the show. Without it I would have missed the special exhibition: the Swiss at le Mans, or known where to find the “green vehicles”.
Did the Auto salon provide information on the cars? Check. Was it easy to find the stands? Check. Was it easy to get to from Geneva city centre? Check. Did it have any razamatazz or excitement? Not really. Did I smell a sense of excitement from the staff working there selling the cars? No.
What were the highlights for me? The magazine, the Renault Twizy and the audio-visual entertainment at Opel.
I saw several mothers of small children looking rather hot and uncomfortable sitting on the floor in feeding their children and giving them toys to entertain them. While there were restaurants, it is not necessarily easy to control small kids while Mum and Dad are doing “adult” stuff.
I do like to be positive so what could I suggest to improve this renowned event?
– Some staff working there who are passionate about cars. Some men? While there were a smattering of well groomed men as ‘hosts’, it would be great to have some staff with enthusiasm bouncing off them.
– A play area for kids with some supervision.
– Some talks on some related to driving e.g. night driving, driving in snow. It can be the same talks given every day.
– Some simulated car driving experiences. Something fun.
– Something glamourous, e.g. a fashion show (like the Mercedes Benz Fashion show in Zurich last Novemeber).
– Some related retail, e.g. why not bring in a brand to sell eye wear or something?
– Some racing drivers outside who are driving up and down a strip testing the fast cars (e.g. every day at 1pm) showing how fast the luxury Porsches and jags can go.
We spent two hours there and I did enjoy it but I was definitely not shaken, or stirred.