Geneva - Of the four major international motor shows each year, Geneva is the one best known for its focus on style, with big and small design houses sharing the spotlight alongside the world's top car brands.
So to get a sense of what were hot (and not) at the show, Reuters walked the floor with Laurens van den Acker, head of design at Mazda Motor.
The 42-year-old Dutchman who has designed for Ford, Volvo, Audi and joined Mazda in 2006, had this to say about some of the cars and brands on display at the Geneva International Motor Show, which runs through March 16:
For me the two Fiestas really stand out. They're impressive on the outside but more impressive in the interior. A lot of it was inspired by cell-phones - you can see it in the way the knobs are executed. To get this level of sophistication and expression in a small car that is normally considered a cheap transportation I think is really really nice. I think they have a real hit on their hands.
The cars for car lovers. It's hard to fault these classic designs. It's nice whenever you have a car brand and you couldn't pick a bad one in the line-up.
LRX concept car. It shows a new direction for the brand to go into a smaller, more urban, stylish vehicle. This is like a little Gucci handbag - very fashionable.
XC60. The smaller brother of the XC90. This is one of the fastest-growing segments in Europe. You can see how they're using their interior flow IP (instrument panel) as a trademark element across the line-up. It started in the S60 and it was such a riveting design element in the interiors that it's become kind of an iconic feature for Volvo. Even though this vehicle still has typical Volvo features - a strong shoulder and large, unique rear-light graphics - it still feels it's much more emotional than previous Volvos.
Peugeot is one of the more unusual brands - very French, very daring. Never afraid to make a bold impression, and depending on whom you talk to, it's on the good or the bad end of good taste.
This is, of course, the brand that has its act together. I can't think of another brand that is so consistent in terms of identity, the complete experience. I think in many ways it's the benchmark for any company on how to develop the brand.
The 1-series coupe. This is the spiritual successor to the 2002 which is the first vehicle that was introduced in America and was the core essence of what BMW stood for and became. I think this is a very very attractive vehicle.
What's interesting for me is that Mercedes' product portfolio is becoming so large that they feel the need to differentiate within their design language between their vehicles. So you're seeing that they're opening up their design language to accommodate a more angular surface language as well as the more chic and luxurious one that we're used to.
Dodge ZEO, Chrysler EcoVoyager, Jeep Renegade. A trio of concept cars shown first in Detroit: What's interesting is that for an American company you're seeing a small Jeep, a small Dodge and a relatively small Chrysler.
Here's a company that in my view is making a bit of a design renaissance. Design chief Jean-Pierre Ploue has done an amazing job of giving Citroen an avant-garde feeling. Citroen is a very interesting brand because on the one hand it's very elitist and avant-garde, and on the other it needs to appeal to a lot of people in the affordable price range. It's probably one of the
most difficult sells.
Cinquecento. It's that small car that's bigger than life. This is one of those cars that if you see it driving out on the streets you want to give it a hug and a kiss. Apart from being very cute, it has tremendous history in Italy and Europe, and has been made famous in many classic American movies.
I think the most significant vehicle on this stand is the little iQ. The simple way to put it is that this is Toyota's answer to (Daimler's) Smart. The concept version shown last year was very cute and appealing and I feel this production version is looking a little bit more plump and lost a little bit of its appeal. It's a difficult proportion.
FX50. The successor to the FX45, which was significant because it was the first most sporty all-out crossover that I saw in the American market that had great proportions, great wheels and great presence on the road. This is a careful evolution of the FX45. It'll be interesting to see how it does in Europe, where Infiniti will be launched for the first time this year.
9-X. To me what's interesting is that where Volvo is going in a more emotional design direction, Saab seems to be embracing Scandinavian design more to the extreme. So you see a purity of shapes, the starkness of colours and some reduced elements.
One of the most well-managed brands, I'd say. Very concise and consistent. All the right German values: great technology, no fluff, very strong presence. Another brand that's figured out what they want to be about and is applying it consistently - not only through design but throughout the whole experience: the show stand, the line-up, the presentation. We still have a lot to learn.
New Superb Elegance. There is something very East European about this car. I don't know what it is but it brings out memories of Russian Volgas in some ways -- it has a state limousine kind of a presence. The transformation that Skoda has gone through under Volkswagen's leadership is amazing.
The new Scirocco. I'm not sure whether this looks like a Volkswagen. The company is going through a design leadership change so you're in this interesting phase where the Murat Gunak
cars are running out while Walter de'Silva's are coming in. This vehicle has a bit of both. I imagine that there's literally a philosophical change within Volkswagen going on at the moment.
GT-R . This is the Japanese Mustang in styling, and Japanese Porsche in technology. If there ever was a manga-inspired car (Japanese comics), it's this.
Megane Coupe Concept. An incredible interior, especially with the striking red, glossy finish and beautiful sculpted shapes with an architectural feel to the design. I think they've found this way of mixing strong geometric shapes with the fluidity in between. You can only hope that their production cars benefit from these vehicles.
The CR-Z hybrid concept is a very nice and cute vehicle. It's got a great front end, great stumps and I hope they build this vehicle just as is.
Here at this show we wanted to concentrate on the full line-up of the Mazda6 -- it's the first time that you see them all together including the wagon. And to support our sustainable "zoom-zoom" idea, we have the Taiki (a sports car powered by a hydrogen-fuelled rotary engine) to give you a glimpse of the future.