Geneva Show: Green Cars, Line-up Proliferation & Interactivity

Benny Daniel & Arunprasad Nandakumar

With over 110 years of showcasing the pinnacle of European automotive industry’s pride and galore, the Geneva Motor Show has in the past been centre stage for unveiling of many iconic models like the Jaguar E-Type, the Audi Quattro and many more. The 2016 chapter was no different and was one that continued the success story of a prosperous 2015 in Europe.
OEMs took to diverse themes to demonstrate positivity in the market but broadly, the trends highlighted at the motor show covered three key pillars: green vehicles, product line up proliferation and interactivity.

The Green Car Pillar
Almost all mainstream OEMs had a definitive Green Car strategy aimed at tackling the challenging CAFÉ regulations. Of them all, one that stood apart was that of the Hyundai-Kia group that showcased the Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), the first in its segment with a class leading 37 g/km of CO2 emission off its tail pipe. Similarly, the Niro emphasised on the brands loyalty to developing competitive electrified powertrains to the market going forward. The brand also sees these PHEV vehicles as a means to attack its fleet customers who have high regard to measurable factors like cost of ownership and running costs. Uniquely, the brand attracts 40% of its consumers from fleets, a number much smaller than many of its competitors. With a target of 400,000 fleet customers by 2020, the strategy does seem befitting and aligned to the vision of the group for the European market.

The theme of green cars was not one confined to the mainstream brands alone. Emerging exotic and sub brands like McLaren, Spykar and the DS from Citroen also turned to electrification as their next generation ally. With a £1bn investment from the British sports brand to add models to their line up by 2022, half of which is committed to be electrified to some extent, and a possible all electric version in the future, McLaren is set to embrace the wave of electrification encapsulating and refining the performance realm in the industry.

Beyond electrics and hybrids, the fuel cell power system was one that stood prominent at the Geneva Motor Show with the Lexus premium flagship the LF-FC luxury saloon concept. The next generation flagship and range-topper is likely to leverage its parent’s Mirai know-how into its future flagship to take a different route to the super premium throne.

The Proliferating Product Line up Pillar
The trend of growing SUV demand in the market is not a new one and the OEMs which have failed to capitalise this up until now have stead in that direction at Geneva this year. The Volkswagen group expanded their SUV presence to the Seat and Skoda brands and a new Polo-based SUV for Europe. The new Q2 was also a clear indication in how VW envisions catering to this fast growing consumer market from a premium angle, being the first to do so.

The SUV stable also displayed the Ford Kuga facelift, Niro compact SUV and Toyota’s new compact SUV along with the lights of the more upmarket Maserati SUV that borrows powertrain from prancing horse sibling.

Irrespective of the market segment or the bracket, there was an SUV for everyone at Geneva with OEMs using modularity, design and platform sharing and we are likely to see further proliferation of this trend in 2016.

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Geneva Show: Green Cars, Line-up Proliferation & Interactivity
The Interactivity Pillar
While there were numerous exhibits on the connectivity and autonomous front, the stand out products were the line ups from Volvo and BMW. BMW highlighted being the 1st to market with it next generation of Bluetooth connected interfaces that now clone the entire phones capabilities which today mandates the need of a physical connection between the device and the interface. As a unique proposition, the brand also unveiled its Wi-Fi connectivity to consumers who are currently confined to mobile network data that attracted heavy roaming charges around Europe.

Hard on the heels of its Stockholm reveal in mid-February, the V90 estate from Volvo’s premium range was also the platform for displaying Volvo’s next generation security driven smart mobility offerings which today is envisioned as physical key-less smart phone driven vehicle access. The brand is likely to leverage the product on its future mobility services ensuring security while eliminating the traditional access method.

While these three pillars might not engulf the Geneva motor show in its entirety, they represent a clear pattern taken by OEMs to address the earlier mentioned positivity in the European market. But besides these, there were some unique offerings from OEMs that beg to be mentioned in this limelight.
Though the stable of the Stuttgart stallion, Porsche was highlighted by the purists 911 R, it’s the Cayman that emphasised the brands future direction. Over the last year Porsche has noticed that a big proportion of its Cayman owners are S Class owners and with earning north of 50k euros monthly. By positioning the Cayman below the Boxter, Porsche will now be able to bring the consumer bracket to below 40k euros helping to further proliferate to a wider consumer, while keeping the 911 DNA intact.

While the Chiron portrayed VW groups intentions to stick by the cash intensive R&D projects, the VW brand has clear indications of moving upscale with A6 based Phaidon, with the Skoda brand replacing the void.

One key highlight that stood out amidst all of the announcements from VW was the groups’ decision to engineer a new electric car brand epitomizing a radical design philosophy featuring concepts like aero vents leading to clear market distinctiveness. The MEB architecture will in all likelihood give birth to a new electric vehicle from the brand by 2019 that would cater to the segment dealt by the Golf currently.

All said and done, a snapshot of the Geneva Motor show with all of the above highlights along with the enticing offerings from some other like range topping F Type, the DB 11, AMG GTR the all the way to the 570S highlights what the industry sees as a positive turnaround to the European automotive market, one that is optimistic yet challenging with consumers fast changing and ephemeral needs, making 2016 a year to look out for.

In short, the whole Geneva theme revolved around three main clusters namely – intelligence, interactivity and super efficiency. Intelligence was mainly around OEMs smart and driver assistance technology such as automated driving, pedestrian recognition and self-parking. The interactivity revolved around interior connectivity features such as smart phone integration, heads up display, while the exterior connectivity was highlighted through Car-to-X solutions. On the super efficiency topic – green vehicle no doubt was the theme, but somewhere in the background was the rebound commitment from the German fraternity to bring the Diesel bet back through strong Co2 and Nox emission reduction capabilities.

What better way to showcase this three clusters than the show stopper in our opinion the new Mercedes E-Class which will launch in Germany and Switzerland this April.

About the Authors
Benny Daniel is Consulting Director, Mobility EIA at Frost & Sullivan.
Arunprasad Nandakumar is Team Lead Chassis, Safety & Autonomous Driving at Frost & Sullivan.


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