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'Salon de l'auto' Geneva motor show opens for 11-day expo

guy parmelin

Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin tries out a smart car at the Show on Thursday.

(Keystone)

The 88th Geneva International Motor Show, Switzerland’s biggest annual event, officially opened on Thursday. Some 700,000 visitors are expected over the next 11 days.

The event, which features 180 of the world’s largest and most prestigious car makers, was inaugurated by the Swiss defence and sport minister, Guy Parmelin, and will run until March 18 in the Palexpo convention centre near Geneva airport.

Parmelin, who arrived by train and then by foot, used the occasion to push a message that transport – whether public or private – should be adapted to the needs of all.

“Punctuality, ecology, security: these are the three principles of modern mobility,” he said. “And in pushing them, we ourselves are pushed to encourage public transport, especially rail.”

However, he pointed out that not everyone lives, works or shops in urban settings, or even close to a train station. Therefore, it would be wrong to play off different modes of transport against each other, he concluded.

Different type of body

This year, the show has also opened under the shadow of wider global trends, including the tariffs heralded by US President Donald Trump’s promised trade war, and the re-evaluation of women’s roles that the MeToo movement has set in motion.

The Lausanne-based Le Temps newspaper wrote on Wednesdayexternal link that the traditional use of scantily clad women to help promote the vehicles is changing, with many car makers opting to forgo the flesh in the face of reputational threat.

“The hostesses sparkle by their absence,” the paper said, echoing a shift that has perhaps been in the making for longer than the lifetime of current movements. And although the AP news service also reports less skin than in previous years, “leggy and heavily made-up models still adorn the stands”, it writes.

François Launaz, president of car importers association Auto Suisse, told Le Temps that he didn’t understand the focus on the female roles. Car manufacturers were free to promote their vehicles however they like, he said. “Like many people, I come to the show to admire the cars.”

ATS-SDA/AP/dos

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