Why all is 'changed forever' as consumers shape future for cars
. . . and you can thank your smartphone
I LOOK around at wave after wave of shiny new metal in Geneva. There are some enormously powerful cars. There are some extraordinarily frugal ones. Yet they are all bound by a resounding prediction that is echoed on every stand.
It is simple but significant: carmakers and consumers are on the cusp of change not seen since the early days of motoring.
Yes, we've heard that sort of thing before. Only there has been a shift of power. It now lies with you, the consumer. And you can thank the smartphone – well in part anyway.
Volkswagen's chief Martin Winterkorn acknowledged the breadth of the revolution. He called it 'fundamental change'.
"People's expectations are changing radically and digitalisation is making all sorts of things possible. We have to adjust faster than ever before."
It will, he said, force them (carmakers) to think about, well, about everything really. Will buyers of the future necessarily want a repeat of the same model every four/five years?
Cars are becoming mobile computers. Apple has teamed up with several carmakers – and plans to do so with many, many more – with its CarPlay system. It effectively turns your vehicle's infotainment displays into mirror images of your iPhone. As your iPhone updates so does your car's display.
And that is only the start. Dr Winterkorn sees the day when you will update and upgrade your car digitally from your own garage.
Mobile phones never more accurately described the phenomenon.
Everyone is getting in on the act. There is a tidal wave of change. And you, the buyer, will be at the centre of it.
For now though, there is more than enough change to be getting on with for one show and one year.
Good to see so many Irish motor industry people out here. All in good form, of course, as new-car registrations are so well up, though there were a few raised eyebrows at how it transpired that so many cars were registered on the last days of the month.
Anyway, they were all happily running the rule over the myriad new cars that will arrive on forecourts over the coming months.
So what can you expect? Well, here's what I found as I trawled through acres of new models – some for now and some for the future – that puts you even more firmly in the driving seat:
World premiere of the 4C Spider concept. Lovely car. Also showed high-performance models of the MiTo and Giulietta named 'Quadrifoglio Verde' ('Cloverleaf').
The V8 Vantage N430 caught the eye while DB9 Carbon Black and Carbon White debuted.
The new TT was one of the real stars of the show. It's punchier/more muscular at the front and has striking wheel-arch flares. Due in October, expect a 1.8-litre (177bhp), 2-litre (217bhp) and 2.0 TDI (177bhp); 6spd box is standard. TTS here too. Roadster planned for Paris in September. The 300bhp cabriolet A3 heralds thoughts of summer (2.0 TFSI, 300bhp, 0-100kmh in 5.4 seconds). And the sizzling S1 (2-litre, 228bhp) caught the eye, as did the limited-edition RS4 Avant.
The new GT Speed (206mph top speed) makes it the fastest production car they have made.
The 2-series Active Tourer people carrier is certainly different (late September in Ireland). The first front-wheel-drive production car from BMW, it also breaks ground by using a transverse 3cyl engine (from MINI; 4cyl diesel as well). The X3 facelift, also shown, arrives in June. Prices from €46,680 OTR for the sDrive 18d.
And the 4-series Gran Coupe, here too, will cost from €46,030 (420i) – it's here in June. The entry-level diesel will cost €46,170.
Dreamsville here – the fourth Bugatti Veyron Legend model, and the second special edition to be announced in a month.
The small-family practical C4 Cactus drew lots of attention. Strange to feel those protective panels on the sides and under the headlights designed to cut repair bills. They are part of the attempt to cut costs (revised engines and lower weight – 60kg less than equivalent Ford Fiesta). The panels – Airbump technology – reduce repair bills.
The C1 city car (shares a lot with new Toyota Aygo and Citroen 108) looked smart – there's a 3dr, 5dr and open-top Airscape.
It's an example of the way phones and cars are merging. The 7in screen mirrors your smartphone.
What a car the California T is. You'd love to hear that 8cyl turbo direct-injection, 3,855cc (552bhp) engine. From looking at it, I believe the carmaker when it talks about a blistering pace and exhilarating soundtrack from the turbo. This is its first turbo since the F40 coupe (1987 to 1992).
It has done interesting technological things with the revised Focus (more than 12 million sold globally) with styling changes overshadowed. A summer arrival, the estate looks great.
The new powertrain line-up includes a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol and 1.5-litre TDCi diesel. Expect a 99g/km 1-litre EcoBoost too.
The SYNC 2 connectivity system made its European debut. It has a hi-res 8in colour touch screen and better voice control for audio, navigation etc. Active City Stop now works at speeds of up to 50kmh.
The 500 gets a new TwinAir 105hp engine; it showed a smart new range-topper 500 Cult and 4x4 version.
The Civic Type R Concept shows the way Honda is thinking about the future. This hits forecourts in 2015.
Also on the stand was the latest fuel cell FCEV concept, NSX with its V6 direct injection engine and all-wheel-drive Sport hybrid system.
Also showed us how it hopes to shape the future with its Intrado – an SUV/crossover hydrogen fuel-cell concept. Sensational orange and black inside. Designed around a carbon-fibre frame, it marks its intention to build lighter cars with lower repair bills. The fuel-cell uses a 36 kWh lithium-ion battery with a range of nearly 600km. Upmarket Genesis also here and the PassoCorto design study.
Sometimes you have to see a car in the flesh. The F-TYPE R Coupe is one of them. Wonderful. Driving it soon. The XFR-S Sportbrake, its first high-performance estate, will create a bit of a stir too. The July arrival has a 5-litre V8 (542bhp, 0-100kmh, 4.8 seconds).
The new Cherokee goes on sale to rival the BMW X3 and Land Rover Freelander. Here for 142 reg. Gets a 2-litre (137bhp or 168bhp) and a 9spd automatic transmission. Also unveiled was the Renegade rival for Nissan Juke. Based on the Fiat 500L, with all-wheel drive, it's due in a year.
The Soul EV made its European debut alongside a special technology exhibit for the brand's next-generation hybrid powertrain.
The lightly facelifted Sportage was also here.
The Huracan, replacement for the Gallardo, pumps 600bhp from its V10 engine. Need I say more? Four-wheel drive only initially; rear-wheel drive in 2015. Looks stunning. Sounds it too.
It had the most performance-focussed version of the Range Rover Evoque – the Autobiography Dynamic. (2-litre petrol, 285bhp).
A European debut for the new RC coupe and high-performance RC F. World debuts for the RC F Sport and RC F GT3 racing concept. It will show its new crossover, the NX, at Beijing in April.
It will make just 100 Quattroporte Ermenegildo Zegna Limited Editions. Order now?
Unveiled the HAZUMI concept which we all know is the outline and direction of the next '2'. If it gets anywhere near this in production it will have a great looking car.
Strange to stand alongside the 650S Coupe or Spider that would cost you €300,000 at least. This mid-engined supercar (641bhp, 3.8-litre V8) hits 331kmh and zips to 100kmh in three seconds.
The new C-Class was an important European debut. It has a slight sportback look at rear; the front is really sharp. A mid-year arrival, but prices are not expected to go up much. Lots of S-Class technology in there. As there is in the V-Class, large MPV. GLA AMG also here. A mid-year arrival, but prices are not expected to go up much. Lots of S-Class technology in there. As there is in the V-Class, large MPV.
However, S-Class Coupe was a show stealer. What a car. Cost? Upwards of €160,000. End-of-year arrival.
New Clubman four-door concept shines more light on the new generation. Due later this year.
Showed concept XR-PHEV, the coupé-like compact plug-in hybrid electric crossover. GC-PHEV concept is a full-size plug-in hybrid electric SUV with 4WD that uses a 3-litre V6 supercharged petrol. And the Concept AR compact MPV, has a 1.1-litre 3cyl direct-injection turbocharged engine.
The revised Juke was a major attraction. Why wouldn't it be? The existing one has broken all records. Option of taking the Qashqai's 1.2-litre 4cyl turbocharged DIG-T engine. Nismo RS version too. Fun. The GT-R Nismo made its European debut. The new X-Trail was almost hidden away – don't know why.
Outlined details of its latest Oscar connectivity – talk about a theme of a show. Funky urban mini-crossover ADAM ROCK took pride of place but it had some important new engines as well, including a 1-litre to rival Ford's EcoBoost. There are 89bhp and 113bhp options. Opel claim 99g/km.
Also there was the 1.4-litre petrol Adam 'S' version that develops 148bhp and near production. Then there was the Astra Extreme, the fastest front-wheel-drive made by Opel. It pumps 296bhp from a 2-litre turbo engine (0-100kmh in 5.9secs).
It is all about 'personalisation' for the new 108 city car (shares with Toyota Aygo and Citroen C1). The summer arrival will come as a 3dr, 5dr and convertible. How's this for personalisation – seven themes, six trims, three cabin 'ambiences' and eight colours? It will be well connected with MirrorLinkTM technology – a recurring theme throughout the show - for the first time in a Peugeot.
The new 308 SW estate looked particularly well. We'll see that later on as well. The 308 won European Car of the Year.
European debut for the Macan S which it claims is the most dynamic in the compact SUV segment. Goes on sale in April.
Also European debut for 911 Targa, its electric roof gives you coupé and Spider options. The 919 Hybrid LMP1 hybrid and 911 RSR took centre stage – both cars will race in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Le Mans 24 Hours.
Doesn't look like we'll see it any time soon, but the rear-engined Twingo still carried enough allure to be one of the bigger attractions.
Kicking up a bit of a storm with the tearaway Leon Cupra in 3dr and 5dr guise.
Showed off its SUV concept, the XLV. The seven-seat concept indicates how future motors from the marque will look. Also seen as being the look of a new production SUV
Watch out for the Octavia Scout, the all-rounder with only slight off-road looks. It arrives before July and will cost under €30,000.
Based on the Octavia estate it has a 2-litre 150bhp diesel, all-wheel drive. Ground clearance is up 33mm; 17in alloys are standard.
Showed its latest concept car.
The Celerio is its new city motor and is expected here early next year. It has more room than the Splash while priced like the Alto.
All three will line up for a while but is likely to take over the sole occupant over time. It has a 998cc 3cyl engine (66bhp) and emissions of around 100g/km.
The new Aygo looks much fresher and is slightly bigger. Nice dash and cabin.
Due here later on in the year to compete in the small-car segment now forecast to expand rapidly.
Showed off the revised Polo and CrossPolo. The latter gets under-body protection panels and black covers on the wheel arches, sills and doors for the 'muscular' look.
More important for most of you, perhaps, are the new and revised Polo engines (there are some design and spec updates too). There is a new 3cyl 89bhp 1-litre (TSI BlueMotion, 68.9mpg, 94g/km).
The Golf GTE plug-in hybrid with "GTi in its genes" can travel 50km on electric power alone; the hybrid range is 939km on claimed consumption of 1.5 l/100km (35g/km).
A 150bhp turbo direct fuel injection 1.4-litre TSI and a 102bhp electric motor provide the impetus.
It had the restyled Scirocco with a fresh range of engines (more power, 19pc better fuel economy).
The T-ROC sports utility concept gives a hint of future Volkswagen SUVs.
"We'd like to build it," VW people told us, describing it as a logical extension of the Golf format.
This 2dr, four-seater is smaller than the Tiguan, and has all-wheel-drive. The middle section of the roof –a carbon composite – can be removed in two halves and stored in the boot. Golf SV is the new Plus.
After much teasing, Volvo revealed its Concept Estate (interesting headlight design and structure) and several variations of their V40, V60 (Polestar) and V70.