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Geneva auto show president envisages a shift from motors to mobility

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·Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
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President of the International Geneva Motor Show Maurice Turrettini. Photo: Jill Petzinger
President of the International Geneva Motor Show Maurice Turrettini. Photo: Jill Petzinger

Maurice Turrettini, president of the Geneva International Motor Show, says he’s not allowed to have a favourite among the cars and supercars that will premiere at Geneva this week.

The Geneva International Motor Show is famous as a place where manufacturers like to bring their newest, most advanced concepts. The main reason for this, according to the president, is that Geneva is an even playing field.

“We are not a country that is producing cars and that makes a difference, because we don’t give advantages to one brand or the other,” Turrettini told Yahoo Finance UK. “If you go to Frankfurt, for example, you have the German brands on the first stage in the best building.”

Turrettini has been president since 2012 when things were easier, he says, because coming to the show was essential for brands. Increasingly, big car makers are mulling whether they need to commit to expensive car shows; Volvo, Ford, and Jaguar Land Rover are all no-shows at Geneva this year.

“We need to get used to cancellations,” Turrettini said. “For example, three years ago Volvo said Geneva is a must, and two years later they don’t come — but they have Polestar, and Polestar took more space than last year. We cannot exclude that next year Volvo may come back or Jaguar may come back, we don’t know.”

Whether it is the high costs of putting a booth at the car show, or that they sometimes just don’t have anything new to show, Turrettini says that marketing departments are simply finding different ways to reach customers, including going to tech shows like CES.

Still, he says, he’s happy that the show attracted new brands from Russia and China this year: “It’s good for us that a new brand, in order to exist, has to start here.”

It’s a stressful time for the global car industry, of course, with concerns ranging from Brexit, to potential US tariffs on EU cars, tightening EU CO2-emission rules, and slowing demand in China.

It’s the slowdown in the Chinese economy that Turrettini views as the biggest threat at the moment. “China is a big hope for the automotive brands, they have all developed joint ventures, they have plans and now since China is regressing a bit, it’s bad for them.”

He notes that if car brands fail to meet the CO2 emissions limits and face huge fines, it is the customers who will ultimately bear the brunt of those costs.

This is certainly the most electric Geneva car show to date, with the majority of brands keen to show off their eco-credentials with battery-electric and hybrid models. But Turrettini says that carmakers might be less than convinced about the future of the technology: “What is amazing is that most of them are saying that electric is not the future, they are not officially saying that, but they know it’s not the best solution, the best solution is hydrogen.” At the moment, investment and development in hydrogen-cell vehicles lags battery cars, and charging stations are few and far between.

Turrettini says that for his first Geneva show as president in 2012, they put just a handful of electric cars into a tent outside the building. Now they are the stars of the show. Ultimately, he would like to see the Geneva Motor Show become a “mobility show.”

I want to attract people who are not interested in cars, but that might come to the show to see electric bikes or electric scooters.”

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