There is some ‘olde worlde’, certainly expensive and ultimately charming aspects of life in Geneva. For a country that famously has only ever had a few attempts at creating vehicles (Monteverdi, Sbarro and Sauber for example) it is completely, insanely, deeply in love with the automobile. That’s why the international gem of motor shows ended up in Geneva, where the public’s love of cars meets with the super wealth of citizens from not only Switzerland but the surrounding countries too.
It was this perfect confluence of commerce and art, some a-m-a-z-i-n-g vehicles were created, primarily in Italy. Sure, some of them did not exist beyond a single prototype, and others were built in small numbers – rewarding customers with iffy build quality and infamous reliability issues (‘are we there yet?’).
Oddly, as the automotive industry progresses to the point reliability is created via computer simulation, there is a really deep wish to have a car where even the act of starting the engine is unpredictable. This is completely delusional, but a pointer to a far, far deeper issue for the automotive industry.
Emissions? Safety? Social impact? Costs?
None of these are causes but rather symptoms of a world which has been getting bored. The automated development process gives us startling panel definition, fine panel gapping, passable paint finish, ever improving powertrain efficiency and – best of all – a real world dynamic performance that is predictable as it is refined. When was the last time we came across a ‘bad’ modern vehicle? Then the killer question. When was the last time we came across a car/bakkie/SUV that stirred us and rewarded us with an equally inspiring driving experience? The placing of cars, especially, on the same thought level as fantastically engineered appliances such as washing machines is definitely with us.
The 2018 show was in two parts:
*Reflecting the significant attendance of people from the Far East, only Hyundai-Kia, Honda and Toyota really pushed the boat out on new model launches. Yes, there were many other significant vehicles there for the first ‘public’ viewing, but the launches had taken place months before.
*Meanwhile, the other segment was super expensive car manufacturers who can realistically only support one show per year along with selected exclusive social events – and that segment of ‘dream’ cars is expanding.
Kia took the opportunity to spell ‘Ceed’ almost correctly, thus replacing the previous two generations of ‘cee’d’ with a thoroughly up-to-date mass market C segment car range. The vehicle is also known as Forte and also appears as ‘Accent’ with exterior panel revisions. No expense was spared for the development, and hybrid drive versions are inevitable since the Niro (for example) uses the same platform. Adding ever increasing numbers of new engines and hybrid drive is almost like a construction kit – akin to ‘plug and play’. Practical? Yes. Great value? Yes. Inspiring? Gosh, is that the time already……
Hyundai (the superior ‘Upper House’ of Hyundai-Kia, although customers may not be aware of this) revealed the next generation of hydrogen fuel cell car which underscores the company’s aim to build production quality cars at more than double the rate of the Hyundai Tucson hydrogen fuel cell model – but that is not on a true mass market commercial footing. Think more along the lines of corporate global posturing. The imaginatively named Nexo uses a dedicated platform to accommodate the liquified hydrogen storage pressure vessels as well as the fuel cell stack, traction battery, multiple voltage converters, power controller and electric drivetrain.
Toyota had their magnificent European operations CEO who was from South Africa announce that they would not add or replace any diesel engine models – indeed Toyota Europe would be diesel free by 2020. Dramatic? Well, not quite. Toyota have struggled for years to produce passenger car diesel engines, buying in expertise and even complete engines in the process. The Toyota Europe diesel car market share has been rather small, and the advent of hybrid power, along with further emissions control technology, put petrol internal combustion engines in contention with diesel engine efficiency – for now at least.
Toyota news extended from revised engines and a mild facelift for Aygo (yup, the investment went mainly on emission control) and a re-work of Auris – known outside Europe as Corolla. Predictably the Toyota Global Platform means the latest line-up of new petrol engines and a CVT with an additional ratio gear set (okay, there goes most of the budget) can have hybrid or plug-in hybrid drive too. Similarly, the Lexus sub-NX SUV, called UV, uses the same Toyota Global Platform. Oh – wait – surprise! Petrol engines, turbocharged and with hybrid drive. The first cars which got this platform? Prius4 and CR-H. Thus, we have a pretty good heads up on what’s coming to the repair shop.
Volkswagen showed a poorly defined concept – that’s the clue that this version is some way from production reality – called I.D. Vizzion. This was the last in the series of pure electric vehicles set to be launched by VWG from 2020 onwards, although Volkswagen then revealed the I.D. Pikes Peak R just a few days later. Confused?
Yet, Skoda showed VizionX, which was a pretty well full defined production car, picking up on the SUV sisters already prepared for Seat, Volkswagen and Audi. Meanwhile the Porsche Mission 2020 took another step closer to reality, revealing it uses MLB Evo platform as used on Panamera.
Awesome vehicles included the ‘Mercedes-AMG GT 4 Door’. Based on the E-Class W213 and CLS C257, this really should be called ‘Mercedes-OMG’. Four doors, a CFRP reinforced hatch opening, unique skin panels, frameless door glass, 2 000kg empty weight and truly immense performance. The goal – to match the aluminium intensive Mercedes-AMG GT in terms of all – yes, all – aspects of performance. This programme took more than seven years to deliver, and whilst it appears to be a super powerful, overweight petrol guzzler, it is in reality a very real super car.
Jaguar I-Pace, Range Rover Coupé and Tata
This was the car of the show. Four wheel drive, unique aluminium intensive body structure dedicated to pure electric drive, a claimed range of around 500km, it was launched with all the pomp and circumstance of a British Royal Family wedding. The only thing missing was a trio of Spitfires flying overhead as ‘Lord’ Callum delivered his final line of his speech. Now that really would be something! Fittingly there was a Jaguar XJ Series III in attendance, as a reminder of times when Jaguar struggled with poor quality tooling, parts and general under investment.
Ahead of this reveal Land Rover showed a beautiful Range Rover Coupé. The elimination of the rear door and lengthening the front door really helps Range Rover’s long wheel base appears even more handsome. The intended production run of 999 units will have just 100 allocated to the UK, and the price? £240 000 plus options. That’s more than £120 000 more than a fully loaded Range Rover long wheel base with the added convenience of doors for the rear seat passengers. Aside from pricing strategy, and retention of the original roofline it has a brand-new interior along with those enormous, frameless, glass doors. Even the front seats are new, taking into account they need to fold to allow ‘bling peeps’/associates/children/bodyguards/servants to get into those rear seats.
Next to the JLR stand was Tata Motors, with two concepts – the ‘45’, a saloon, and built at the JLR engineering facilities in the UK. The other is based on the Land Rover Freelander No. 2, to be launched in five- and seven-seater form. The skin is new, but the programme is running about four years late.
What wasn’t there?
Two notable vehicles were not at Geneva. First up was the Volkswagen Touareg which appeared in Shanghai, having been driven 16 000km from the assembly plant to the reveal venue, arriving on 23rd March 2018. Class. This vehicle is the next part of the MLB platform-based roll out which started a few years ago with Q7, and then the third generation of Porsche’s Cayenne.
The second missing vehicle was the Ford Focus4, the first application of the brand new global ‘C2’ architecture. Instead this was launched a full month later, on 10th April 2018….
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV – a vehicle best viewed with very dark tint glasses in a darkened room – sets new levels of off-road opulence. The Rolls-Royce Ugly is doubtlessly going to be a huge hit, and needs to reach customers who want off-roading, which according to BMW, does not include Geneva nor much of central Europe. Instead the honour of the company was carried by a brace of Phantom VIII commissions (along with an ‘aero’ cover for the Dawn convertible) to make it appear as a two seater with the roof folded (at around £4400). Still, one could view all of these beautifully made vehicles in all types of light without fearing loss of sight. Please note, Cullinan.
What’s the fuss? This is without doubt the biggest launch that Ford Motor Company has done for decades. To give an idea, it will morph into a Kuga, C-Max, Mondeo replacement, S-Max replacement and three brand new SUV segment vehicles. It is literally pivotal.
Focus4 has weight saving and aerodynamics which are the lead features, saving up to 80kg compared to Focus3. This is how the weight saving builds:
*33kg from the suspension and brakes, but use of fully optimised material distribution on the uprights and links compared to the previous ‘solid’ forms.
*25kg from the body structure. Here the main difference is the addition of press hardened steel into the lower A pillar, C pillar and cant rail reinforcements – Focus3 has press hardened steel alloy B pillar reinforcement along with Martensitic steel allowing sill reinforcement and these material selections are carried over into Focus 4.
*17kg from the seats and interior trim, again by optimising processes and material selections.
*7kg from the harness, where there are more harness types to suit vehicle equipment specification during the build process. If the options are not specified, the harnesses will not support retro fitting…
*6kg from optimising engine block material distribution.
Aerodynamics include air curtain bleed from a duct in the front bumper over the front wheels (many OEMs have done this for some time) along with multi plane deflectors around the front wheel and full underside cladding. The rear end features air attachment spoilers to reduce turbulence. The upshot is a reduction in Cd to 0.273 – CdA is not published yet, which will be rather more relevant.
All Focus4 models have lane keeping, lane departure warning and autonomous braking fitted as standard. A software upgrade permits speed adaption via road sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control. Blind spot alert and automated braking with a reversing camera are available as options but standard on the top Vignale trim line, and the LED headlights are also only standard on Vignale trim line. Then there’s Ford 360Pilot, which takes Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) to a whole new level. FordPass adds vehicle to infrastructure communication, 3G WiFi hot spot and the famous eCall – which is standard for most but not all of the range.
Focus4 will be built in Germany, China and in the US. There are initially two body shells – a five-door hatch and an estate – along with a high riding version of the hatch called ‘Active’, just as we saw with Fiesta B479. Overall this represents a step change in vehicle sophistication from body to electronics, and especially in terms of standard fit safety systems. The life of a vehicle collision repairer could never be described as being dull.
The key take away
There may well be a purge on diesel powered vehicles, but remember this: If we convert to full electric vehicles right now with existing technology, there is not enough raw materials to make that happen. More likely is the addition of electric drive systems to internal combustion engines – and diesel will be part of that. In addition, the rise of more comprehensive standard fit ADAS to all sectors will also increase. Model specific methods research has never been more vital to eliminate wasted work/cost.
As for the Geneva show, it’s future as a major showcase is still challenged by OEM cost cutting. However, there is a real prospect of “Beautiful People” giving small manufacturers of very expensive cars a whole new life, at which point why wouldn’t a major OEM not want to be there? Answer – try stopping them!
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