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Geneva (March 2008)

Name: 78th Geneva International Motor Show (2008)
Show dates: Press Days: March 4-5, 2008 (Tuesday to Wednesday) 2 days
General Public Days: March 6-16, 2008 (Thursday to Sunday) 11 days
Venue: Geneva Palexpo

Outline and Impressions of Show:

The 78th Geneva International Motor Show was held for 11 days between March 6 and 16, 2008 (Thursday to Sunday) in Geneva, Switzerland. Though Switzerland does not produce automobiles, the Geneva International Motor Show enjoys a high international reputation and is closely watched around the world, in part because of its neutrality. There is little discrimination based on company size and origin when it comes to exhibition space and qualifications, which makes the show popular with smaller brands and custom-car-oriented carrozzeria. These exhibits help to place it among the top global shows in terms of world premieres; this year had 81 world premiere models in the vehicles division alone. Top managers from most of the world's major automakers attended, as they do every year.

The venue, Palexpo, enjoys extraordinarily convenient access from its location adjacent to Geneva International Airport, an expressway interchange, and an intercity railway station. It is also just six minutes by train from downtown. The concourse leading from the Geneva International Airport Station to the venue was lined with exhibitor signboards and models, and exhibitor logos and advertising could be seen on virtually every wall of the exhibition hall and surrounding area, which helped to create an appropriately festive atmosphere and is an idea to keep in mind for Tokyo too. With total exhibition space of 114,000 sqm, the show attracted approximately 1,000 brands from 260 companies and 30 countries, exhibiting under the environmentally-oriented theme of "Drive green!" New exhibitors this year included Infiniti and China's BYD AUTO, which showed a hybrid vehicle. Other exhibitors als emphasized their environmental models and technologies in advance of Europe's increasingly stiff emissions regulations. Norway's Think Global, for example, had an electrically-powered "city car" on display in the outdoor space in front of Hall 6.

The organizer announced after the close of the show that approximately 10,000 members of the press had visited, compared to the annual average of around 5,000. One of the exhibits attracting so much press coverage for the Geneva International Motor Show was the US$2,500 "Nano" that debuted in January in New Delhi and made its first appearance in Europe at the booth of India's TATA Motors. World-renowned industrial designer Ken Okuyama, famous for the designs he did for Italy's Ferrari sports cars, had an impressive "Ken Okuyama Design" booth and announced that he would be exhibiting new models each year at the Geneva show.

The show's layout was by corporate grouping, with members of the same group either exhibiting jointly or adjacent to each other, a long-standing practice that was only minimally changed this year. The only marked difference was the positioning of the tire manufacturers, who moved from a corner of Hall 1 to the center. That location amidst the carrozzeria exhibits did not produce the mismatch that might have been expected because the tire manufacturers were obligated to have vehicles on display in their booths.

The performance elements were relatively subdued, although Toyota did highlight its "iQ" concept car by having it appear from underground through a sliding floor. Another design standout was the Fiat booth with its giant "Fiat 500" objet that also served as office space for the staff.

Exhibitors along hall walls made use of two-story structures, but all others were limited to 1.5 m in height and there were no dividers between the halls, so the main Halls 1-6 under one roof did not feel particularly large in spite of the approximately 85,000 sqm of space. If anything, the visibility helped to improve the environment, particularly for viewers who simply wanted to look at cars in peace.

Many of the booths were elevated from the hall floor, and it was mainly the larger booths that made use of full or partial slopes. The organizer did not appear to be all that interested in barrier-free design in spite of not a few wheelchair users. The canton of Geneva passed a referendum on "passive smoking and health" that will restrict smoking in indoor and enclosed public spaces, with legislation is expected to come as early as next summer. In advance of the legislation, the organizer did make this year’s show a “smoke-free” exhibit. Unfortunately, one could still observe people smoking within the exhibition hall, perhaps because of a lack of advance PR to visitors.

Also notable at the show was the temporary closure of the International Automobile Museum, a permanent display in the basement of Hall 7. For the show it was transformed into "Hall 71," a 5,000 sqm visitor "entertainment space" that was opened the first weekend of the public viewing. While we were unfortunately not able to view it, the space reportedly had shops and eateries, including an Italian restaurant, as well as opportunities to try out a wide range of games, from the "Mario Kart--Double Dash!!" to the "Gran Turismo 5 Prologue" for Playstation 3.

The addition of entertainment marks a new orientation towards the general public, a sector that the Geneva International Motor Show has not traditionally emphasized. That change, and the exhibitor focus on environmental technology were the most vivid impressions that we took away from the show.
Geneva show poster
Exhibit at the railway station
Infiniti booth
Outdoor exhibition
TATA booth
Ken Okuyama booth
Bridgestone booth
Toyota iQ
Fiat booth
Overhead view