Alternative powered vehicles and futuristic prototypes are just some of the highlights of the 76th Geneva International Motor Show, which opened on Thursday.This content was published on March 2, 2006 - 13:01
But this year's event is not just about cars of the 21st century. A special exhibition marking the centenary of Switzerland's "Revue Automobile" magazine pays homage to the history of motoring.
"This year we have a lot of world and European premieres, and a lot of concept cars and prototypes," René Lambelet, head of communications for the Geneva Motor Show, told swissinfo.
"It is really a view to the future in one sense and then a look to the past with this special exhibition for the Revue Automobile."
Over the next ten days around 260 exhibitors from some 30 countries will be displaying their wares at the first major motor show of the year.
Opening the event, Moritz Leuenberger called on manufacturers to develop cars with a lower oil consumption.
The Swiss president and transport minister said cars that were energy efficient and produced fewer emissions also sold better.
There will be an estimated 140 world premieres at the show including new thoroughbreds from leading stables such as the Ferrari 599 GTB – billed as the most powerful 12-engined production car of all time – and the Porsche 911 Turbo.
But Geneva is not all about big engines and bulging SUVs. Around 20 stands will feature hybrid, electric, fuel cell, natural gas and ethanol vehicles.
The EcoCar stand, run by Switzerland's e'mobile and gasmobil associations, is dedicated solely to alternative powered vehicles.
Models on display include the Twingo Elettrica and the new Panda Elettrica, which have a range of 130 kilometres and are both made by Swiss-based MES-DEA.
Another attraction at the EcoCar stand is the record-breaking PAC-Car II developed by the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
This fuel cell vehicle, which weighs less that 30 kilograms, established a world record in June last year, travelling 5,385km on the equivalent of one litre of petrol.
While Switzerland does not have a major car manufacturer to call its own, the country is home to several producers of custom-made and concept cars, and they will be out in force in Geneva.
Rinspeed, which has caught the eye in recent years with its "Splash" and "Senso" cars, is back again with "automobile enlightenment on four wheels" – the limited edition zaZen.
Another star of the motor show is likely to be the 359-kilogram Acabion, developed by Root-based Mikova Systems, which in its current form can travel 100km at 200kmh on five litres of fuel. The aim is to get this down to three litres.
Billed as "the next generation in individual human mobility", the Acabion looks like a jet fighter cockpit on wheels and can accelerate from 290kmh to 450kmh in ten seconds – faster than a Formula One car.
"The concept is how to get very fast motion with a very small amount of energy," Mikova's Dirk Langemann told swissinfo.
Mikova says the Acabion is likely to be fitted in the future with an electric drive allowing for more sedate motoring around town.
swissinfo, Adam Beaumont in Geneva
Last year's Geneva International Motor Show attracted a record 747,000 visitors.
A special exhibition celebrating 100 years of "Revue Automobile" magazine is being staged at Palexpo alongside the 2006 motor show.
This exhibition brings together about 15 historic vehicles that have marked the journal's first century, including a Dufaux, a Bugatti Type 51, a Ford GT 40 Street Version, an Alfa Romeo Freccia d'Oro and an Auto Union Grand Prix.
This year's motor show runs from March 2-12.
The exhibition surface covers 77,700 square metres.
260 exhibitors from around 30 countries are expected.
There are 140 world premieres.