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2011-03-09 14:07

SCISSOR DOOR SUPERCAR: Lamborghini’s Avendator, one of the many supercar debuts at Geneva.

Agnes Pedrero

Forget the people-carrier and electric runabout: with the economic crisis over, the low, sleek and powerful supercar regained its place at the 2011 Geneva auto show.

Journalists, photographers, and industry executives clustered in scrums around glitzy launches by Italian sports-car makers Ferrari and Lamborghini.

"Compared to previous years, this show will be marked by growing optimism among automakers," said Carlos da Silva, of consultancy Global Insight. "The motor industry is back on track."


Clean engines, electric or hybrid petrol-electric, abounded among some 170 model launches alongside mini runabouts and five to seven-seat family wagons. Even Rolls-Royce unleashed a prototype battery version of its limousine.

But little can replace the dreamy-eyed appeal of the top-line sports car in the industry, even if its six-digit price, 500kW power output and 300km/h plus top speed are out of reach of the average buyer.

Although it was still the company's trademark boiling bright red, Ferrari nonetheless squeezed four seats into its low-slung new " FF", as well as all-wheel drive for the first time in its history.

"The FF is a fantastic and very important step, a new page in our history," chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo enthused beneath the firm's prancing horse emblem.


Nowadays VW-owned Lamborghini's new Aventador was slightly less subtle. "Raw power and featherlight weight," the company claimed of its carbon-fibre, high-tech V12 supercar, shaving a couple of hundred kilos off Ferrari's 1700kg FF. This mass reduction has allowed Lamborghini to lay claim to a 20% cut in fuel consumption and carbon emissions over the Avendator's predecessor.

In keeping with a tradition dictated by the company's logo, the Aventador was named after a bull that became a legend among Spanish bullfighters.

Green credentials of some shade are essential even for this exclusive and small - though highly profitable - corner of the car market.
German rival Porsche offered a hybrid engine in its four-door coupe, the Panamera, but while such renowned car makers fit in alongside known luxury brands on London's Bond Street, New York's Fifth Avenue or Geneva's Rue du Rhone, smaller newcomers are seeking to carve their niche in the same market.

Spain's GTA Motor, a racing-car specialist, unveiled its first high-tech supercar for the open road, the Spano. It pares down weight thanks to the use of carbon fibre and metals favoured by the aerospace industry, such as titanium.

HATCHING A PLOT: Its hatchback profile may be unconventional but Ferrari’s FF was part of the new model supercar assault at Geneva…

And it's not the kind of car you pick from a catalogue.

"We'll sell 99 cars, each client will have his or her exclusive colour," a company executive told AFP, shrugging off talks of economic uncertainty. "The car is built in Valencia (Spain) but it's in emerging economies, in Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates, that we'll sell," he added, eyeing the same markets as the major automakers.

Meanwhile, traditional British automaker Morgan dug even deeper into its roots for the Geneva show. It revived a favourite among the 1930's sporting gentleman, an open three-wheeler powered by a modern motorcycle engine, able to complete the benchmark 0-100km/h sprint in a shade over four seconds.


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