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Geneva Motor Show 2024: The show must go on!

Updated: Jun 11

2024 Geneva Motor Show

Back for the first time since 2019, what was the biggest motor show in the world is smaller than before, but just as important. Ken Pearson reports from the Swiss capital. Images by Gok Ozbay - @ozbaydesign and Ken Pearson

Dear reader, forget everything you have read and thought about motor shows over the last few years: the motor show is not dead. For the first time in five years, the Palexpo Exhibition Centre in Geneva, Switzerland opened its doors for the Geneva Motor Show to take place.

Cancelled at the last minute in 2020 for obvious reasons, then deferred year after year and being hosted in Doha, Qatar (not Switzerland) had left many questioning whether the show would ever return to its home location and whether it would be a shell of what it was before.

2024 Geneva Motor Show

The consensus from the wider automotive media and lots of manufacturers has been that motor shows are too expensive and not worth the time spent at them, but having been to the IAA Munich motor show in 2023, I totally disagree - more on that later. For this year, the organisers of the Geneva Motor Show knew that they had to do something different to entice people back through the gates and onto the red carpet and they did deliver.

Entering the hall and heading upstairs, the first thing to greet myself and my friend Gok of Goks Car Lounge was a Ferrari 299 GT3 sat next to a McLaren Senna as part of the “Adrenaline Zone” featuring ultra-exclusive road cars that most of us can only dream of seeing outside of a racing game.

The stage plaid host to millions of pounds worth of exotic machines such as a McLaren Speedtail, P1GTR and F1 GTR Longtail which carried the fabulous Gulf/Davidoff livery, Aston Martin Valkyrie, Pagani Huayra, Bugatti Veyron and an all-white Porsche 959 - complete with white wheels. And a LaFerrari. And an F40. You name it, it was there.

2024 Geneva Motor Show

2024 Geneva Motor Show

Unknowingly, we’d walked into the end of an exhibition on the evolution of the automobile, starting out with a Ford Model T on one side of the hall and culminating with the stand-to-end all stands that drew an enormous crowd. Each decade or period had its own stand and along the back wall ran a long line of sports cars that had made their world debut at the show - the Porsche 901, Jaguar E-Type, Mercedes-Benz 300SL still gather gasps and curious gazes to this day.

For fans of dictatorial Limousines such as myself, the Maybach Zeppelin and magnificent Bugatti 41 Royale were absolute highlights; the Bugatti on display was built for King Carol II of Romania and powered by a 12.7-litre in-line 8-cylinder engine which could turn out 300 hp to send the four-tonne armoured behemoth to a top speed of 124 mph. Not bad for something made in 1930. It even had a prancing elephant as its bonnet mascot.

The exotica and significant models of the past were nicely contrasted by the finalists for European Car of the Year 2024 with all the shortlisted models and the winner - the new Renault Scenic - being closely inspected by visitors. Whether Toyota had lost the keys for the new CH-R or just wanted to keep our grubby mitts off will remain a mystery for now though. If the upstairs section majored on the history of both the car and the show, the lower floor would showcase the present and future of the car with a few models making their public debuts. Firstly, Dacia.

2024 Geneva Motor Show

2024 Geneva Motor Show

A brand that you may not have been expecting to see on the pages of Rush, but the brand is seemingly going from strength to strength in the new car sales charts and its latest iteration of the Spring EV promises to bring an affordable electric four-seater to the mass market - just don’t watch the crash test footage which bestows the model with a dismal one-star EuroNCAP safety rating which just isn’t good enough in 2024.

The more interesting Dacia on display was the new Sandrider - an Ultimate T1+ Class rally raid car designed to take on the Dakar rally in 2025. The tubular chassis, carbon-bodied challenger is powered by a 3.0 litre twin-turbocharged V6 that sends 360 bhp and 539 nm (397 lb-ft) to all four wheels via a 6-speed sequential transmission. 17” wheels are clad in 37” rubber with two complete spare wheels housed just behind the doors for easy access if a puncture hits mid-stage. With Prodrive onboard, the Sandrider will be one to watch when the cars, bikes and trucks take to the dunes for next year’s Dakar Rally...

An indirect route across the hall saw stops at Microlino who were showcasing their new Citroen Ami rivalling Isetta bubble car-inspired offering and the most impressive reinterpretation of an automotive icon at the show, the Kimera Evo38. Paying tribute to the Lancia 037 - the last rear-wheel drive rally car to take the World Championship title - the Evo38 is an evolution of the highly praised restomod called the Evo37 of 2021. Unlike that car which stuck true to the original’s rear-wheel drive layout, the Evo38 gains all-wheel drive and a power bump up to 600 bhp and 427 lb-ft from its twin-charged 2.1 litre four-cylinder engine. If you’re in the market for one of these, order it in yellow - it looks sensational.

2024 Geneva Motor Show

2024 Geneva Motor Show

Yellow cars were all over the enormous Renault stand where the new 5 supermini made its debut, with no fewer than three new models and one classic three-door being painted in the unmissable hue. The other two were blue and an interesting shade of Kermit the Frog green. The replacement for the ZOE had constant queues of people waiting to jump inside and get a feel for the modernisation of the once ubiquitous nameplate.

While it comes from an era before my time and I have very little nostalgia for it, Gok was the most animated that I’d seen him all day! It has a scent of retro but doesn’t stink of it - if anything, like the Alpine A110 - it looks as if it is a 7th-generation model from an alternate universe where the 5 never went out of production. The design is filled with retro touches and nice details like the French flag motif in the headlight clusters, the offset 5 badge on the tailgate and a reworking of the bonnet vent from the original model which will now show the car’s charging status when it’s plugged in.

The car will be electric only, offer up to 249 miles of range and will spawn a high-performance version in the form of the Alpine A290 which is going through its final testing stage before being unveiled later this year.

2024 Geneva Motor Show

2024 Geneva Motor Show

Among the expansive line-up of MG models was the new Cyberster which still doesn’t sound quite right when said out loud. The jaw-dropping butterfly door-equipped two-seater is - you guessed it - electric-powered but significant because it is the first electric roadster to make it to mass production. Yes, I know the Tesla Roadster got there first, but the MG is bespoke.

It will be available with a single or twin motor drivetrain delivering 335 or 510 bhp and a WLTP range of up to 277 miles - and critically, will have the market all to itself for a little while as the electric Porsche Boxster is not (currently) due to arrive until 2025. The cockpit is driver-centric with three displays and easily reachable controls for the electrically powered doors, roof and infotainment. The ergonomics and material quality are excellent and I am itching to have a go in one when it arrives in the UK.

2024 Geneva Motor Show

2024 Geneva Motor Show

It wouldn’t be a motor show without a ridiculously outlandish concept car and Lamborghini provided it with their Lambo V12 Vision Gran Turismo. The striking concept was designed for the racing game franchise and is said to be powered by the same supercapacitor-assisted V12 powertrain as the Sián FKP 37 but takes the individual styling elements to the extremes.

The single seater is fighter-jet inspired with fantastically exaggerated wheel covers, Y-shaped headlights and tail lights with Starship Enterprise-style boom rear wings and a hilariously sized rear diffuser. The concept can be driven in the digital world on Gran Turismo 7 and if you look closely, you may be able to see where the car influenced the design of the new Revuelto plug-in hybrid hypercar.

2024 Geneva Motor Show

2024 Geneva Motor Show

The final high-performance highlight is a bit of forbidden fruit in the form of the Lucid Air Sapphire which is the American manufacturer’s answer to the Tesla Model S Plaid. The three-motor electric saloon has 1,217 bhp and 1,938 nm (1,430 lb-ft) on tap to blast the car from rest to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds and 100 mph in just 3.8 seconds. Just 9.09 seconds after launching, the car will have completed a quarter mile and reached 153 mph.

The car is elegantly minimalist in its form with an open, spacious and fabulously upholstered cabin to match. The Sapphire has been described as being “without question the best handling EV on sale” by Top Gear Magazine and consistently praised in the American press but for now, this hot version of a gorgeous limousine is not for these shores. Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson - who also doubles up as the firm’s Chief Technical Officer - has publicly stated his desire to bring his firm to his homeland, but it is unlikely for the next two years at least.

By our estimations, the split of internal combustion engine and electric-powered models on display (in the new car section) was roughly even, although the electric cars were drawing the vast majority of attention and made up the lion’s share of the high-performance offerings. BYD had the most elaborate stand with four meeting rooms and at least 100 people floating around their comprehensive range of cars (from the budget-friendly Dolphin hatchback to the flagship Yangwang U8 SUV) throughout most of the day.

In fact, the smallest Geneva Motor Show with the lowest number of mainstream manufacturers in attendance in recent years was hardly an empty hall with a handful of cars and freebies. Not until Gok and I had completed three laps of the hall, had one coffee and one beer each, stood perplexed at the V8-powered tricycle known as the Lazareth Triazuma, stood transfixed by the Rebellion R13 LMP1 car that took 2nd place at the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans and the winning Toyota TS050 parked next to it, did we feel like we’d completed the show.

2024 Geneva Motor Show

2024 Geneva Motor Show

We were two of thousands of people who passed through the halls to view the icons of the car world that had gone before and those that were to come next. From noon to 4pm we had to wait in line to get into any car on any stage and we saw countless other people who were blown away by the variety of cars on show, speaking to friends or colleagues on the phone and telling them about what their eyes had just discovered and excitedly recording videos of models which had only ever existed in pixels or print before like the Renault 5, Lucid Air and MG Cyberster.

We saw young minds being captivated by the shapes, colours and electrically powered doors of fabulously styled machines and perhaps most importantly, saw the significance of bringing new products to the people and letting them have a look and feel before the cars hit the roads and showrooms.

This is what brings me back to my opening statement of “the motor show is not dead” and I say that because it really doesn’t seem that way. This year’s Geneva Motor Show was pre-emptively played down as a shadow of its former self which could “only” attract Renault, Dacia, MG, BYD and Lucid, but those brands went to town with their stands and staff and showcased the result of being passionate about your products and people who represent them.

2024 Geneva Motor Show

Online 15-minute reveals of cars are great because they are instantly accessible by a global audience, but I will remember much more about the surfboard-equipped Volkswagen stand, Cupra’s logo-shaped pretzels, Mini’s bulldog head statues, Polestar’s breath-taking Synergy concept and Lotus’s pop-up store at IAA Munich along with Renault’s multicolour line-up of new 5 hatchbacks in Geneva than I ever will about the 15-minute video that launched the Mercedes-Benz EQS…at least I think it was 15 minutes…

I’ve mentioned a few times in this article about how busy the halls were and at this point, I should add that our visit was on a Friday. I can only imagine how the visitor numbers will grow across the last two days of the event that fall on a weekend. From the sights, sounds, pointed cameras and smiling faces that I’ve seen both in Geneva, Munich - even Farnborough at last year’s Fully Charged Live show - I am a firm believer that motor shows in general still have a lot of life left in them.

Just like there is still a desire to test drive cars before buying them, there is clearly a desire to see cars before driving them, to get a good glimpse of the future and to simply appreciate some of the brilliant design and engineering work that goes on in the automotive industry manifesting itself in a finished product.

Yes, the established conglomerates, high-end brands and new piston-powered performance cars weren’t there but as far as I’m concerned, the 2024 Geneva Motor Show was well worth going to and there can only be room for (re)growth from here. Don’t believe the anti-hype: the motor show is not dead. I’ll see you in Paris in September or back in Geneva this time next year. The motor show must and will go on.


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