Getting jiggy in Geneva

It’s Geneva Motor Show time, a chance for the stressed-out automotive industry to let its hair down and have a party.



For a few days, events such as Geneva let the automotive sector show the wider world the side of itself that it loves best. A feast of technological innovations, surprising – and sometimes downright weird – designs (the Geneva unconventional, if you like) and last but not least, an array of fast, sexy cars.


What a refreshing change from the rather less inspiring headlines generated by the auto industry on many days of most weeks.


These are likelier to paint a picture of falling sales, high raw materials prices, plant closures, pension fund gaps, cheap competition from developing economies and demands for action against gas guzzlers on the school run.


A bit like supermarkets, the automotive industry is too much part of the fabric of our everyday lives to avoid being caught up in controversies of various kinds.


It has a major impact on, among others, our personal mobility, the environment, transport congestion, safety, tens of thousands of jobs and the economic well-being of an entire region or nation.


No wonder it likes to cut loose for a few days at Geneva. Naturally, there will be plenty of hard-nosed business done at this week’s event alongside the razzamatazz.


And you don’t have to hunt too hard to find some success stories among the gloom of what can too often look like a sector in perpetual crisis.


Take BMW, whose premium brand vehicles are selling more cars in more parts of the world than ever, and which seems to have avoided many of the travails of many of its rivals.


There is, of course, one element of the BMW empire in which the UK automotive sector can take particular pride – the dear old new Mini.


Built to high standards in Britain, this quintessentially British car has scored across the world with its target market of the young, aspiring, fashion-conscious driver with a healthy disposable income.


A range of options and accessories mean the Mini, like many other BMW models, can be tailored to the desires and pockets of individual customers, giving them a car unique to themselves.

Customisation instead of mass-production, in other words. It seems to work, and could be the way forward for other technology-rich premium automotive businesses in an increasingly intimidating global market.