Story and photos by Graham Earl
A few years ago people in the know were predicting the end of the supercar. A visit to this year’s Geneva Salon would quickly disabuse anybody of such pessimistic thoughts, because the overriding feeling I came away with is that the supercar is King. And it isn’t just the obvious traditional makers of these types of cars who are flaunting their wares to an eager marketplace, but an ever increasing clique of niche manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon and offering ultra expensive, ultra exclusive fodder for those with deep enough pockets. Looking at the many options available, there is clearly an awful lot of people with pockets deep enough to sustain such a growth in this market sector.
Manufacturers are increasingly aiming for the money-is-no-object customers, so what we get to see is an ever wider range of jaw dropping, highly impractical but utterly sensational motorcars.
Geneva is traditionally the most glamorous of motor shows, where the manufacturers choose to showcase their latest and greatest new models, which is ironic considering that Switzerland doesn’t even have its own car industry, but it is centrally located in the middle of Europe, so is comparatively easy to reach from anywhere. This year the crowds came in their thousands, too many for comfort, in fact. Roads leading to Geneva were jammed, the airport was swamped and the show halls themselves were choked. Some stands (notably Ferrari) were so busy from the moment the doors opened that it was all but impossible to move through the exhibition near their display area. My impression was that visitor numbers were up on recent years.
Fiat showed their 124 Spider again, and this seems to be selling well, because I see them everywhere, even as rental cars in the Spanish islands. What I can’t understand is how the Italians came up with an inferior design to the Japanese, who created the MX5 on the same platform. The designers at Fiat spent too long trying to incorporate styling cues from the original 124, while those clever Japanese went for a clean sheet design and came up with a modern masterpiece. I never thought I’d say the Italians have been beaten at their own game by the Japanese, but in this case they surely have.
Abarth had their version of the 124, on a separate stand, to emphasise that this is a stand-alone brand within the empire, and I’m sure they’ll do well with it, but I can’t get excited by a modern imitation of an original classic. The first car was drawn by a genius design house (Pininfarina) and displayed all of their skill and artistry, and it offered the driver a unique experience. The new car is a mere copy, by Fiat’s in-house design department and it offers an experience much like any other new car.
Lancia was conspicuous by its absence, replaced in the Fiat group’s range of stands by Chrysler. Enough said on that matter.
French and British_______________________