Next month's Geneva Motor Show is expected to be a little more upbeat than the gloomy Detroit event in January, where manufacturers displayed their cars on poorly-lit stands or stayed away altogether.
Greener and smaller cars will be all the rage at the Geneva show
Analysts expect car makers to showcase "green" concepts during the show March 5-15 that will hopefully lift them out of the worst crisis in the industry for decades. The trend is toward electric cars, hybrid models, downsized combustion engines and smaller cars.
"Geneva will be especially interesting for the small car segment," according to German car analyst Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, "giving a preview of what's to come after the crisis -- sometime after the year 2010."
The Geneva Show comes at a time when several European governments are providing stimulus packages and tax incentives to kick-start their domestic car industries as many workers are being made redundant or are working on short time.
First hopeful signs of a recovery can be seen in Germany where the government is offering buyers of new cars a 2,500-euro ($3,222) cashback scheme, if they scrap their old car -- which must be at least nine years old. Some dealers are reporting up to ten times more business although official figures are not yet available.
A deep crisis
The French government wants to help French auto producers amid the global economic crisis
But the crisis is far from over yet. The French government is injecting an additional 6 billion euros into the country's car industry after Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn warned that up to 20 percent of jobs in the car industry could be lost in Europe this year as producers, suppliers and dealers have been badly hit by the global economic crisis.
Even sports car manufacturer Porsche, which long appeared to be riding out the storm, is feeling the pinch. Sales have plunged 18 percent since August 2008.
Nevertheless, all major car makers are expected to showcase their new vehicles in Geneva with exhibitors making a special green pavilion available in which at least a dozen manufacturers are set to present clean technology vehicles.
The Swiss specialist firm Rinspeed is unveiling its iChange futuristic concept, designed to encourage innovative thinking among car makers. It is not only fitted with a zero-emission 130 kW electric engine, but raises the rear end to add two additional seats behind the driver at the press of button.
"We have developed an extremely flexible vehicle, not only illustrating the theme of variability but also reflecting continuously changing energy needs," says chief executive Frank M. Rinderknecht.
Sporty and energy-efficient
The Geneva Motor Show is expected to be more upbeat that the event in Detroit
Volkswagen will launch its new Polo, which has a sportier look and energy-efficient engine. The Polo is expected to come out in a special, fuel-saving diesel version with start-stop technology reducing fuel consumption to 3.5 litres per 100km. Carbon dioxide emissions are expected to come to just 89 grams per kilometre.
Peugeot is presenting a revised version of the 206 in the small car segment. Further up the model line-up, the Peugeot 3008 is a mixture of station wagon and SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle). Like the 308, it features a large glass roof with a modular boot system. The most efficient engine of the 3008 has a consumption of 4.9 litres. A hybrid version is being planned for the first time in the Peugeot Citroen PSA concern for 2011.
BMW is presenting a new entry model for the MINI One. Consumption is listed at 5.3 litres which translates to a C02 emission figure of 128 g/km. Brake regeneration energy, start-stop technology and six-gear transmission are standard.
Japanese car maker Mazda will debut its fuel-efficient Mazda3 fitted with start-stop that promises 12 percent more fuel efficiency. The high-performance Mazda3MPS flagship will feature a 2.3-litre engine with an output of 260 horsepower.
"The show will not be all gloom and doom," says car market expert Nick Margetts. Many customers will by then be looking at new cars afresh, since many European governments will by March have finalized their plans to stimulate the industry.