After a two-day stint covering new car launches and concept unveilings at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, I have just one word to sum it up: evolutionary. Let me explain.
In recent years, car shows have been the stage used by all carmakers to wow the industry, be it with drastic changes to existing model lines or outrageous design concepts.
Whichever way you look at it, car shows had become a form of entertainment in themselves, rather than a platform for informing the industry about imminent changes to manufacturer ranges.
But Geneva this year marked a significant turn around for motor show themes.
Going back to basics
Instead of mind-blowing concept cars and vehicles powered by pencil shavings, we were presented with a far less revolutionary approach. This was summed up most effectively by the launch of the new Audi A3.
The third generation of Audi’s much-loved family hatchback has been nine years in the waiting, and excitement about the update had been fuelled by a couple of concept previews in 2011. So, you can appreciate that the presentation of the 2012 car received a groan instead of a gasp from yours truly. Telling it apart from its predecessor will take a keen eye if you ask me.
But Audi wasn’t the only brand sticking firmly to an evolutionary tactic. Porsche, synonymous with unveiling almost unchanged car designs, had the new Boxster. Honda previewed a concept of the CR-V, which attempted to smooth out the current car’s awkward looks with a coat of blandness. And Fiat’s new Panda could easily be mistaken for the car it replaces.
Even mighty car company Ferrari’s big offering was the F12 Berlinetta, a car that looks unmistakeably like a shortened version of the existing FF.
There were some exceptions to this rule of course. Mercedes’ A-class and Volvo’s new V40 are both significantly changed compared to the previous models bearing the same names. But overall, there were no cars that gave me a real buzz of excitement for their originality.
Hard times means practical cars
However, maybe manufacturers playing it safe isn’t all bad.
The fact is, like all markets, the economic downturn has affected carmakers. And it looks as if this has ultimately resulted in a cap on outlays, especially on the likes of concepts that won’t ever be produced. Let alone extreme style changes to existing models where the resulting impact on sales is difficult to estimate.
That means brands have decided to stick to what they know, what people like and what already sells. But is this what you, the buyers, really want?