A year ago, the 32 world debuts at the Geneva auto show belied the industry crisis moving from North America to Europe.
A year later, reality has reached Geneva. This year's show, with 25 concept and production debuts, is more modest, more focused on real-world possibilities and increasingly environmental. Even high-performance brands such as Ferrari and Porsche have bowed to the trend to be green.
Another trend--getting smaller--will be highlighted with the debut of Audi's Europe-only A1 premium small car, a model that eventually may find its way to North America, Audi executives say.
The integration of Chrysler Group's Chrysler brand with Fiat S.p.A.'s ailing Lancia near-premium brand will move closer in Geneva when the two brands share the same stand and stage a joint press conference.
Here's a sampling of some of the production and concept vehicles making world debuts in Geneva during media days March 2 and 3.
Alfa's new Giulietta hatchback will be the first Fiat car to use the company's new Compact platform, which also will be used in North America for new Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles due in 2012 and 2013. The Giulietta goes on sale in Europe in spring and replaces the 147, which launched in 2000. Fiat currently has no plans to export the Giulietta to the United States.
Audi will unveil the A1 premium small car and a hybrid concept version of its new A8 flagship sedan. With the new A1 compact hatchback, Audi has created a fuel-efficient premium car that will go head to head with BMW's Mini brand. The A1 likely will be offered only in Europe for the time being. But Johan de Nysschen, Audi of America's president, told Automotive News in October that the next-generation A1 could be sold in the United States within the next decade.
The new nonhybrid 5 series goes sale in Europe next month and in the United States in the summer. In Geneva, BMW will show a hybrid concept of the 5 series called the ActiveHybrid 5. The hybrid's global launch is planned for early next year.
The Chrysler brand and Lancia will host a joint news conference and share a stand in Geneva, although they won't be showing any new cars. To freshen Lancia's portfolio at minimal cost, Fiat and Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne has said four Chrysler brand models will be imported from North America and rebadged as Lancias in Italy in 2011. Lancia will sell versions of the Sebring sedan and convertible, Town & Country minivan, and 300C sedan. In European markets outside Italy, the models will be sold as Chryslers, company sources say.
Ferrari will show its 599 sports car with a hybrid power train. The Italian magazine Quattroruote reported that the new system will use lithium ion batteries and an electric motor to cut the fuel requirements of the 599's V-12 by 35 percent.
Kia's new Sportage moves away from the rugged off-roader look of the current model to sleeker crossover proportions. The new Sportage is longer, lower, and wider than the first- and second-generation models and has a more dynamic-looking exterior as well as more space for people and cargo. The new Sportage will arrive in dealerships worldwide this year.
Lexus will unveil the CT 200h, a compact hybrid hatchback that will rival entry-premium models in Europe such as the new Audi A1 and BMW 1 series. According to Lexus, the CT 200h will be the first full hybrid model in the premium-compact segment. The car is powered by Lexus' second-generation hybrid drive technology. The CT 200h will be the brand's entry-level model in Europe. There are no plans yet for North American sales.
The new Mazda5 that debuts in Geneva will be more fuel-efficient than the current model and is the first production vehicle to adopt Mazda's Nagare design philosophy. A set of wavy ridges on each side of the compact minivan is part of that new philosophy--Nagare is the Japanese word for "flow." U.S. power trains have not been announced, and Mazda hasn't decided whether start-stop technology will be used in the U.S. version. The Mazda5 is scheduled to go on sale in Europe this fall with a U.S. launch early next year.
At the Detroit auto show in January, Mercedes-Benz showed the Rising Car sculpture, whose sweeping lines, muscular wheel haunches and pronounced grille previewed the new CLS sedan as well as a fresh design language for the German premium brand. In Geneva, the sculpture will come to life as the second-generation CLS concept.
Mini's new Countryman SUV is a more ruggedly styled version of the traditional Mini hatchback with optional all-wheel drive. Expanding Mini's lineup is part of owner BMW's bid to boost the brand's profitability. The Countryman is Mini's fourth model as well as its first four-door car. The Countryman will be offered with three gasoline and two diesel engines. In Europe, it will have technologies such as brake energy regeneration and a stop-start system to reduce fuel consumption. BMW has not yet announced whether the United States will get these technologies.
Mitsubishi's ASX compact crossover is a European-spec version of the RVR, which is on sale in Japan. The ASX will launch in Europe in late spring; the United States will get a version this fall.
With its new Juke crossover, Nissan aims to offer a sporty alternative to hatchbacks. In the United States, the Juke will be positioned below the Rogue crossover.
The front-wheel-drive Juke will be the brand's third crossover, following the Rogue and the larger Murano. The Juke will go on sale in Japan in the summer, in Europe at the end of September and in North America in the fall.
Nissan also will unveil a subcompact car that it plans to sell in the United States for about $10,000. According to the company, its so-called Global Compact Car will replace the long-running Micra subcompact in markets outside the United States, including Europe and Southeast Asia.
Porsche will show the 911 GT3 R Hybrid in Geneva, a car designed to explore the potential of hybrid drivetrains in a racing environment. The car, based on Porsche's 911 GT3 RSR, uses an advanced new electromechanical flywheel system in place of a conventional battery to provide electrical energy to a pair of 60-kilowatt motors. The two motors assist the engine--a 480 horsepower, naturally aspirated, 4.0-liter version of Porsche's traditional flat-six unit.
Porsche's second-generation Cayenne SUV, which also debuts in Geneva, will be lighter and slightly shorter than the current bulky-looking model. It will be offered with a gasoline-electric hybrid power train.
Volkswagen will debut its new Touareg SUV, VW's first showroom model to offer a gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain. To improve fuel economy, the new Touareg is lighter and sits lower than the current model.
Volvo hopes its new S60 will better compete with rivals from BMW and Audi. The Swedish brand touts the S60 as a four-door coupe, and the production S60 is similar to the eye-catching concept unveiled at the 2009 Detroit auto show. Buyers in the United States can choose between two chassis setups: a softer comfort chassis or a sportier dynamic chassis. According to Volvo, it plans to sell about 90,000 of the new S60 a year globally, with about 30,000 sales in North America.