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What the Geneva Motor Show revealed about the auto industry

By raccars Published

As the dust settles after the largest motor show of the year, what did it bring to motoring?

While the press at these events focuses on the exotica and the expensive, what's really interesting and important about motor shows is what they tell us about the current state of the industry and what manufacturers have planned for car drivers in the near future.

Car manufacturers use the shows to demonstrate their new technology and to show off new design directions. And our response to the shows is critically important when it comes to high level executive decisions in putting some of these ideas into production. Among the bright lights and gleaming metal, there were lessons to be learned at Geneva.

Hypercars have distanced themselves even further from the average car owner

As the fastest and most expensive cars in the world grow ever more outrageous, it has to be said that Bugatti must take some of the blame. For some years manufacturers have been desperately trying to catch up - quite literally - with the Veyron, a long time holder of the 'fastest production car in the world' title. Now the firm has gone a step further with the Chiron, which will cost almost £2 million and be absolutely impossible to use on the average UK street.

The SUV is unstoppable

Anyone who thought that the SUV bubble would burst at some point will be waiting for a while yet. They just keep coming; from premium and luxury efforts, mainstream brands and those targeting budget consumers, SUVs or crossovers are the fastest growing and most profitable market segment. Until recently there were some major brands resisting the onslaught but now Seat, Skoda, Maserati, Lamborghini and even Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin have succumbed. This may leave the likes of Ferrari pondering the wisdom of following the herd.

Not only is there a rush of new SUVs on the way, but the dwindling popularity of MPVs has seen manufacturers decide to borrow a bit of SUV marketing power. The new Renault Scenic is distinctly crossover-inspired and you can expect to see the likes of the Vauxhalls Meriva and Zafira follow a similar path if they want to survive.

The takeover is quite spectacular if you remember that the Nissan Qashqai, the catalyst for this revolution, was only released ten years ago and has managed to completely change the car buying landscape since then.

Premium is becoming mainstream

At one time premium brands inhabited a rather exclusive niche, accessible only to high earners and the glitterati. The cachet of certain brands has inevitably been reduced by exploding sales volumes and product diversification. As their demographic increases, so do profits at manufacturers including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, while brands previously considered of a lower caste are fast climbing the social ladder.

Ford is pushing its Vignale luxury sub-brand; Citroen has decided its premium DS brand has enough commercial traction to go it alone as an independent badge; while Hyundai is repositioning itself with its new Genesis.

From the customer point of view, the theory is that you spend a few grand extra to get a distinctly higher quality product - and of course there's the snob value of a certain badge. For car manufacturers, it's becoming easy money, which arguably steps all over the idea of premium in the first place.

Effectively, a new market tier is being created - to budget, mainstream and premium we now need to slot 'premium mainstream' into third place.

The clean and green motor show

The proportion of hybrids and electric cars to conventional combustion engines has changed significantly compared with previous years. Could a new set of interesting eco cars finally convince the public that they have as much to offer as fossil fuel burners? Watch this space...

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