Trade tariffs and slowing market demand put the dampers slightly on the annual Geneva Motor Show, normally the glitziest and newsiest even on the European automotive calendar.
Adding to a slightly disjointed feel this year was the absence of some big names. Ford, Opel, Volvo, Hyundai and Jaguar Land Rover were all non attendees as the major manufacturers continue to tighten their belts.
Hiccups around European include political issues in Italy and Spain and the devaluation of the Turkish lire while France and Germany are sailing dangerously close to recession. Then, of course, there’s Brexit.
The B word brought some worrying rumblings with BMW announcing it could pull further production out of its Mini plant in Cowley unless a deal on customs and tariffs is reached while Toyota, with its factory in Derbyshire, said no deal will put an enormous strain on its just in time parts operations.
Matt Harrison, marketing chief at Toyota Motor Europe, said that the manufacturer has planned for a number of scenarios but that it needs is some sort of deal on the table to end uncertainty and allow the business to move forward.
Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW’s board member responsible for Mini and Rolls Royce cars, said the German company would “need to consider” moving production from the UK as the company could not absorb the extra costs they would inevitably face.
What everyone doesn’t want is further delay because it would lead to further uncertainty. For example Kia UK has a shipment of cars already on its way to the UK from South Korea which is scheduled to dock after March 29.
Company president Paul Philpott said: “Right now I have no idea what the customs or tariffs are going to be at port. It really does make planning difficult.
On a brighter there was lots of electrifying news going around with almost all manufacturers having some sort EV or hybrid on stand.
Pick of the bunch, perhaps, was Fiat Centoventi. It’s the expression of a bold, future vision based on 120 years of history and experience – hence the name of the prototype that means “One Hundred and Twenty” in Italian.
The car is billed as the market’s most affordable electric mobility and solution with a range of 310 miles. The car is designed to sell in basic form and customers can keep adding kit – they can even make their own bits if they have a 3D printer!