The world of motoring has descended once again on Geneva, with car lovers and manufacturers gathering for the annual car show.This content was published on March 3, 2005 - 11:07
Opening the event on Thursday, Swiss President Samuel Schmid praised the motor show – which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary – as a success story.
In his speech, he issued a call for an environmentally responsible road traffic policy but said individuals also had a part to play in ensuring road building was kept within limits.
Geneva marks the beginning of the automotive year in Europe for manufacturers and tends to define sales for the rest of the year.
For the past three years, business has been tough for car builders and suppliers, but the organisers of the motor show are typically upbeat about prospects.
"The car industry just has a slight cold, but it’s not sick," said the show’s director, Rolf Studer.
Studer admits that sales have fallen in Europe, but he told swissinfo that prospects were looking good in Asia.
"Demand in new markets in China, India and southeast Asia has taken off," he said.
Carmakers in Geneva are hoping to catch the eye of potential buyers. Engines keep on getting more powerful, while interiors are becoming more stylish and comfortable.
The major brands have also taken notice of new consumer demands, coming up with green alternatives to the more traditional petrol and diesel engines.
The Geneva show has moved on from being just a giant showroom for buyers to being an international showcase for manufacturers and new technologies.
"Carmakers have a chance to show that they aren’t just interested in individual mobility, but also want to find a way of maintaining natural resources," said show president Claude Sage.
Despite having their own show in Frankfurt in September, German manufacturers have turned out in force, with a whole series of world premières.
"We have no way of influencing when and where world firsts are presented," said Studer. "But we can offer the best exhibition facilities, and 6,000 journalists travelling to Geneva cannot be ignored either."
Switzerland has no car industry of its own, so manufacturers consider it neutral territory.
"When we decide who goes where in the show, we don’t have to worry about national priorities," the director told swissinfo.
Exhibition surface is distributed according to market share. "In Frankfurt and Paris, local carmakers have the biggest stands," added Studer.
The Geneva motor show has been Switzerland’s biggest exhibition for years, with nearly 730,000 visitors in 2004.
For the 100th anniversary, there had been talk of extending it for a few more days in the hope of attracting one million visitors. But the idea was dropped because of cost considerations.
swissinfo, Andreas Keiser in Geneva
The Geneva Motor Show runs from March 3 through to March 13.
Over 720,000 visitors are expected to go through the turnstiles.
Around two thirds of visitors are Swiss.
There will also be 6,000 journalists from around the world.
The exhibition surface is 123,000 square metres.
The motor show is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, although it is only being held for the 75th time.
Geneva is one of the world’s five biggest car shows, along with Detroit, Paris, Frankfurt and Tokyo.
There are no local manufacturers, so all carmakers are offered the same conditions for their stands.
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