SLEEK AND FAST: The McLaren will draw a lot of attention at the Geneva show. Image: Newspress.
GENEVA, Switzerland - The front end of McLaren's brand new P1 GTR seems to form a knowing smirk, a pointer perhaps towards the track-ready engine powering this R20-million dream car.
It's one of 90 sleek never-before-seen machines due to have their world premiere when the 2015 Geneva auto show opens on Thursday. (March 5 2015).
The European car industry, after being dogged by trouble since crashing into the economic crisis in 2008, is at last picking up speed.
BATTLE FOR ATTENTION
Luxury sports cars, high-end SUV's and "green" cars will be bumper-to-bumper at the show - one of the auto industrand most diverse events - with about 900 shiny vehicles and more than 130 new models and "concept cars" on display.
Among the eagerly awaited newcomers will be Renault's new crossover Kadjar SUV, aimed at taking on Nissan's popular Qashqai, and a new Ford Focus RS. But such family-orientated cars will, as always, need to battle for attention against the latest crop of jaw-dropping luxury and high-performance vehicles.
Ferrari wil launching its 488 GTB supercar, Aston Martin its race-car inspired Vantage GT3.
"Green" cars, with next to zero toxic emissions, and concept vehicles focused on the autonomous vehicles of a driverless future are also expected to draw the crowds.
Auto market analyst Flavien Neuvy of Cetelem Credit said: "The Geneva show will open in a positive context for the European car industry."
With sales on the Continent up 5.7% in 2014 and swelling by 6.7% in January 2015, there is finally something to get excited about. The European Automobile Manufacturer's Association has meanwhile predicted a cautious two percent growth for the European car market in 2015.
The positive mood in the industry will certainly rub off on the display of new vehicles, according to Euler Hermes analyst Yann Lacroix. Trade shows generally reflected "the overall climate in the car sector", he said, pointing out that "the market is growing a bit, company results are improving,we're on a positive track".
But the European auto industry still has a way to go before returning to pre-crisis sales volumes. In 2014 only 12.5-million cars were sold in the European Union; the number was 16-million in 2007. And the recovery remains uneven, with southern European countries such as Spain, Italy and even France facing a particularly steep climb.
PwC analyst Josselin Chabert suggested that the current low oil prices might help to jump-start the process. Black gold recently tumbled to a six-year low of just over $40/barrel, resulting in lower fuel prices that were "revitalising household purchasing power a bit".
"If the tendency continues, this could soften the effect of the crisis, which European countries still have not fully exited," she said.
After being forced to undergo painful and dramatic restructuring processes during the crisis French automakers could at last be more upbeat. PSA Peugeot Citroen, which almost plunged off a cliff a year earlier, said recently it had slashed its losses by 75% and posted its first operational profit in three years.
RANGE OF BRANDS
Renault meanwhile announced it would create 1000 permanent jobs in France through 2015 on the back of a strong growth in profits in 2014.
Despite their recovery, French manufacturers were still behind German automaker Volkswagen which, with its range of brands, accounts for a quarter of the European market. The German behemoth appears set to take the lead in global auto sales in 2015, for the first time, from Toyota.
Another German automaker, Borgward, will make its return at the show. It went belly up more than half a century ago and may have a new model to show off.
The 85th show will run from March 5-15 (2015) and expects to draw about 670 000 visitors with as many as 90 world and 41 European premieres.
Lacroix said: "There will be quite a few luxury vehicles. That's part of the trademark of Switzerland, where purchasing power is not the same as in other countries."