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Trade secrets: What the Geneva Motor Show is really like

general view of the Geneva Motor Show 2016 Image copyright Getty Images

As a veteran of many international motor shows, I have to say, I quite like Geneva.

Everything’s relative of course. The opening day is still a refined form of purgatory – a maelstrom of frenetic activity, missed schedules, and carefully choreographed arrangements that start to fall apart the moment the doors are opened.

PR officers beam at you through tightly gritted teeth, chief executives look thoroughly bored as they move reluctantly from one media engagement to another – six minutes for each interview and not a second more, or their sharp-suited minders get very unhappy

And as you’d expect, all the manufacturers try to to drown out one another with their sound and light spectaculars. So it’s hard not to get a thumping headache.

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Just getting to the show is a major logistical challenge. Flights are booked up, the most affordable hotels sell out a year in advance, and the remainder would challenge the budget of a minor millionaire.

The traffic is best described as the worst advert for the car industry you could possibly imagine. And you’ve probably heard that in Switzerland the trains always run on time. Not during the show they don’t – mine was 19 minutes late on Thursday.

Wheels not heels, surely?

Inside the show itself, you’re faced with an array of the most advanced automotive engineering money can buy – but in many ways the mentality of the industry is entrenched in the 1960s.

Image copyright Getty Images

Image copyright Getty Images

Image copyright Getty Images

Sex sells may be an outdated and discredited mantra, but the people here clearly didn’t get the memo.

It’s as though there’s an unbreakable rule, written in engine oil that states: every car model must without fail be flanked by a human version, every bit as sleek and polished as the machine itself.

They’re all female of course, and all wearing clothes which must make simply getting dressed a striking achievement. The message is simple. Get the car and you’ll get the girl. I say, good luck with that….

I spoke to some of these women and I learned two things. Smiling for too long can give you toothache, and standing for hours in high heels really hurts. Forget the glamour, feel the pain.

Cars galore

But despite all that – I said I quite like the Geneva show and I do. That’s because it is here on neutral ground, away from the home bases of the big auto giants, that you see some of the most interesting cars in the world.

Image copyright Getty Images

Image copyright Getty Images

There’s the big-bucks Bugatti Chiron, which is, almost as powerful as two Formula One cars combined.

The EV3, a quirky electric three-wheeler from British manufacturer Morgan, with state of the art technology in a car that looks like something out of the 1930s.

Or there’s the Rinspeed Etos, which has a drone on the back because the engineer who designed it just thought it would be good fun.

The point is that here in Geneva it isn’t all about business. The car really is the star of the show.


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