When one hears the term International Geneva, one tends to think of the UN, its affiliated organizations, NGOs, permanent missions of several states and even the Graduate Institute, perhaps. However, the Geneva International Motor Show too captures the cosmopolitan essence of Geneva, albeit in a very different manner. One only needs to walk into the exhibition halls of Palexpo to discover these carmakers from across the globe who are out to impress. From March 7 to 17 this year, 220 exhibitors had 900 models on display spread across the 7 halls. The place was abuzz with journalists trying to capture phots from the best possible angle, automobile enthusiasts attempting to get as close as possible to these precious models on display, and glamorous looking salespeople who seem to be able to spot a serious buyer from miles away. It is a matter of little wonder that supercars tend to dominate the headlines. Yet, this year, in its 89th edition, there seemed to be a clear indication from several companies that the show wasn’t only about supercars and a clear statement that the automobile industry too had a commitment towards the future, and in order to honour this commitment there was a need for innovation.
This is not to say that there wasn’t the usual bling associated with such shows worldwide. The world’s most expensive car, Bugatti’s La Voiture Noire was on display near the main entrance. With a body crafted from carbon-fibre, equipped with a 16-cylinder engine, it had been sold for a whopping $19 million to an anonymous enthusiast. The Dutch aircraft-manufacturer Pal-V exhibited the Liberty Pioneer, touted to be a flying car. One doesn’t quite know what to make of it: a car that glides in the air or an aircraft that drives on the roads? And is air traffic going to become yet another burden that future generations must deal with?
It was heartening to see that electric cars stole the show, in some sense. Of course, from an economic standpoint this only made sense, considering electric car sales had risen in all major markets. Audi made a statement of sorts by showcasing only electric models, including its e-tron FE05 Formula E Race Car. Other prominent carmakers such as Nissan, Honda, Peugot and Mercedes followed suit, exhibiting electric models and prototypes. BMW seemed to have gone a step further by showcasing its model I3 which happens to be a part of SBB’s Green Class Initiative, a move aimed at catering to sustainable mobility solutions. Skoda even had an e-bike on display, seeming to really be taking the lead in terms of reaching carbon emissions.
Of course, when one looks at the big picture, electric cars are just one component in the move towards sustainability. Nonetheless, finding energy-efficient mobility solutions continue to pose a challenge for many countries around the globe. If the automobile industry were to make a concerted effort towards a carbon-free world we would move some way towards reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Just as much as the Geneva International Motor Show is about the supercars with sleek designs, it also seems to be moving towards greater innovation and a shared concern regarding our common future. One can only hope that in the years to come we see a continuity in this trend.