Geneva's smaller, greener, cheaper show

* Lots of launches, lots of people * Economic reality is starting to bite, though * Could this present an opening for the Nano?...

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Jim Holder
06 March 2008

Geneva's smaller, greener, cheaper show

There is no shortage of visitors to this year's Geneva motor show, and no shortage of buzz in the halls as they feast their eyes on one new car after another.

But there was also a downbeat feel to some of the proceedings, perhaps reflecting the anticipated slowdown in the world's economy, perhaps just a sign of the times, as budget cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Tata Nano take centre stage over the supercar exotica.

It didn't help that there were no real surprise launches: only the Renault Megane concept car, Saab 9-X and Seat Bocanegra hadn't been seen before.

Of these, the Megane looked good, but any enthusiasm was tempered by the knowledge that the production version will almost certainly be savagely toned down, and the Saab seemed just too far from production reality to get too excited about.

In fact, it was left to the Seat Bocanegra to uphold honour among the trio. Previewing the next Ibiza, the Bocanegra managed to ooze class even though it was reasonably close to production trim.

It's the first Seat produced with former Lamborghini designer Luc Donckerwolke at the helm, and it bodes incredibly well for the future design direction of the company.

Significantly, by far the best-attended launch was that of the Tata Nano. At first it seemed that many people were there in anticipation of an announcement regarding the ownership of Jaguar and Land Rover, but the crowds didn't disperse when no news was forthcoming.

Why? To see the Nano, of course. While there's no guarantee that there would be an appetite in Europe for a no-frills bargain basement car, looming economic gloom could mean that the car is in the right place at the right time.

After all, on the evidence of Geneva at least, there is an encroaching feeling that reality is starting to bite the car industry. The once-buoyant ethos of smaller and greener was being joined by another watchword cheaper and there's no greater advocate of that than the Nano.