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Opinion: A blast from the past in Geneva

The car show on Lac Léman’s shores was always something special. Smaller, more dignified and exclusive. But Thomas Neufeld says this year it’s become a magnet for the purveyors of pure horsepower.

There was a time a Car Top Trumps player could win with a hand showing the fastest, most powerful and gas guzzling models. No hint then of dieselgate and road bans or electromobility putting the brakes on things. But despairing, horsepower hungry Top Trumps freaks can now head for Geneva - where the good old days are back.

Neufeld Thomas Kommentarbild App

DW's Thomas Neufeld reports from the Geneva Motor Show

Be it Porsche's Panamera Sport Turismo, Ferrari's 812 Superfast or Alfa Romeo's Stelvio, the sector is banking on power and opulence. And who can blame industry boards for employing a tried and tested strategy that still works. Almost 82 million new cars were sold last year - a number expected to grow this year by a further 2 million. Nearly everyone involved is earning good money on the trend. The number of cars with a battery at their heart is vanishingly small. Yet caution is advisable - today's winners have only limited utility for the future.

Carmakers will need to plough the billions of euros they're making back into development and production. The sector is on the cusp of the most sweeping change in its history. Technology companies like Google, Apple, Tesla and Uber have long woken up to the potential of the new engines and autonomous driving systems. They're financial behemoths and aim to be at the center of the multibillion-dollar mobility business of the future.

Amid the sports cars and SUVs of this year's Autosalon, the odd model can still be spotted that rewards a closer look: sensible, economy models. Or feasibility studies like "Sedric" - Volkswagen's take on the electric, self-driving future of automobiles. But they're very much the exception at Geneva's Palexpo exhibition center this week. Because unlike in previous years, German carmakers have also gone down with the horsepower bug.

Fewer than 10 percent of the cars unveiled in Geneva this year meet the strict EU emissions norms which come into effect for new models in 2021. That's a disastrous statement about the selection on show, to say the least. They're certainly not a good wager on the future. In a few years, the cards in a winning Car Top Trumps hand will feature models boasting the most powerful batteries and the longest range. And the Geneva Autosalon will be little more than a museum dedicated to the good old days.

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