Saturday 20 April 2019

It's an electric time at Geneva, but even there you can't escape Brexit

Kia E-Soul
Kia E-Soul
Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake
Renault Clio
VW ID buggy
Peugeot E-208
Honda E Prototype
BMW 7-Series
VW MEB platform
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Even at Geneva it appears you can't escape Brexit.

Car makers with bases in the UK are being inundated with questions about plans.

There are reports of staff doing a sweepstake on how many times the issue is raised and how many ways automotive executives have of answering the questions.

But I don't think Brexit is overshadowing the show. I think the major, and utterly predictable, theme is the acceleration of electrification, especially in SUVs.

Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake
Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake

Few and far between are the manufacturers that don't have a car with electricity in their line-up.

It was fitting, therefore, that an electric vehicle should win European Car of the Year. The honour fell to the Jaguar i-Pace electric SUV, which took the title after a tie-break with the Alpine A110. Interesting to see how close the KIA Ceed was.

Meanwhile, as a blunt sign of its shift to EVs, Audi says its stand at Geneva will not have any pure combustion-engined cars on display. It is showing its new E-tron Sportback. This is its second electric SUV and it has a bold coupe look.

Alfa Romeo is seriously getting in on the electric act too with the unveiling of the new Tonale PHEV compact SUV. The smaller-than-Stelvio model promises advanced driving dynamics.

It wasn't on show, but the electric car name in the back of most people's minds is Tesla, and its new Model Y electric SUV will be rolled out next week. It has to now spread its options as more and more rivals come chasing it.

Peugeot had its 508-based concept, which previews an electric performance range. The 4WD Sport Engineering has a 48km electric span.

Elsewhere, SEAT is showing its first bespoke electric SUV, the el-Born.

It's a near relation of Volkswagen's ID and is virtually ready for production.

Volkswagen's ID Buggy concept is a preview of an EV off-roader.

Just a small break from electric: Lamborghini revealed its Aventador SVJ 759bhp roadster.

And Mazda's CX-30 compact crossover, which is debuting, is described as a core model for the future. It's due later this year.

Back to electric. Skoda is showcasing a future electric model with a Vision iV concept.

Again, it is based on the Volkswagen Group's MEB platform (see Page 2) and has a near-500km range.

Volvo offshoot the Polestar 2 was revealed earlier and will rival Tesla's Model 3. It too claims a range of 500km or so. The electric fastback develops 402bhp.

One of the surprises was Fiat's Centoventi concept, which will morph into the next Panda. There will be an electric Fiat 500 next year and a 500 Giardiniera estate.

On a personal note comes news from Geneva that Sergio Marchionne, who died last year, has been named winner of the prestigious World Car Person of the Year.

At the time of his passing in July, Mr Marchionne was CEO of FCA, chairman of CNH Industrial and chairman and CEO of Ferrari.

Renault unveiled the new Clio with its 'smart' cockpit (large 9.3in vertical multimedia screen and 10in TFT digital instrument binnacle).

And its bargain arm, Dacia, is targeting a more premium segment with the new range-topping trim Techroad package for the Duster, Logan MCV Stepway and Sandero Stepway.

We get an idea of what the next Nissan Qashqai will look like with the IMq concept.

Nissan also says it will bring its e-Power range-extending hybrid technology to Europe by 2022.

One of the stars of the show is the new Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake (219bhp). The second-gen estate is due late autumn.

The brand's new range-topping GLE model, the AMG GLE 53, has use of the electrified EQ Boost drivetrain (429bhp mild-hybrid 6cyl).

And Mercedes is showing the Concept EQV electric MPV.

With seating for up to eight, the V-Class-based motor has a claimed range of 400kms.

A moment for some real glitz? The 631bhp Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder debuts.

And Bugatti is claiming its La Voiture Noire is the most expensive car at the show.

Based on the Chiron, it costs €11m. There is only the one, so don't bother enquiring.

At the other extreme, Citroen's Ami One low-cost concept EV city car (48kmh top speed) could be driven without a licence.

BMW launches its new X3 plug-in hybrid. It's due later in 2019 with a full electric iX3 next year.

An electrified Mitsubishi Engelberg Tourer makes its Geneva debut. It has a 4WD plug-in hybrid powertrain to give more than 640km range.

Honda is showing its new four-seater urban EV.

SsangYong's Korando SUV has been given a rugged makeover. There will be a full electric version next year.

KIA, as ever, is busy. It has a four-door 'Imagine by Kia' concept and, among others, there are the electric e-Soul and upgraded Niro models, while the 190mph Porsche 911 Cabriolet is making its public debut.

And a 'warm' GR Sport and rugged Trek join Toyota's expanding Corolla line-up.

VW MEB platform

Meanwhile, pre-Geneva show, Volkswagen announced that it is putting its Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) platform (above) at the disposal of other manufacturers.

The platform has been developed over recent years to significantly cut the cost of e-mobility by having it used by as many as possible. The economies of scale help reduce unit costs.

Volkswagen reckons there will be an initial wave of 15m 'pure electric vehicles based on the MEB.

The e.GO Mobile AG based in Aachen, Germany, will be the world's first external partner to use the platform to roll out further electric vehicles in addition to Volkswagen's model range, it has been announced.

* Also pre-show, Volvo announced it will limit the top speed in all its cars to 180kmh from next year. Its Vision 2020 targets no one being killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo next year.

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