The Enduring Appeal Of The Motor Show

You can’t drive them, and often you can’t even touch them, but the cars at the Geneva show still draw the crowds

Switzerland doesn’t have much in the way of a native car industry, which may explain why the Geneva Salon de l’Auto is an annual highlight for the global car business. Visit Paris, Frankfurt, Tokyo or Detroit and the home team always takes the limelight, while Geneva is comparatively neutral, a stance that comes naturally to the Swiss.

Geneva is also an easy hop from centres of wealth, which explains why the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Pagani all prepare their showstoppers with care for the lavish stands in Palexpo. While invited guests nibble their canapés and sip champagne, ordinary members of the public can only gaze on with admiration.

But in a world where you can don a VR headset and inspect a new car from every angle, or book yourself real test drives at a ride and drive event, it seems anachronistic that we still flock to view cars as static exhibits in a hall. Stand space is expensive, stand design and construction equally so. All that time, effort and money for just a few short days. So why do it? What’s the appeal of a motor show?

First, it’s news. For many makers the media days alone justify their presence. Industry bigwigs, press and TV programme-makers all converge for a gigantic get-together on neutral turf. It’s a time to talk plans, announce business strategies and reveal new design directions. It’s probably also a great time to eye up the opposition; on media days you can easily spot the design teams on walkabout, carefully appraising the work of their rivals at other brands. In the words of Gavin Green, industry veteran and Car Magazine executive editor, “Geneva is the catwalk for cars.”

Centigrade had the inside track at Geneva, working with RUF Automobile to debut their fourth-generation CTR supercar. Visually based on the iconic CTR of 1987, christened “Yellow Bird” by Road and Track, the new CTR evokes the spirit of the original. But beneath the paint, the 2017 CTR is based on Ruf’s first-ever in-house carbon fibre chassis and packed with race-derived technology. The result is a modern-day 710hp supercar within a classic body shape.

Just 30 examples will be built, and the contrast between a niche supercar maker like RUF Automobile and the global car manufacturers with their visions of an electric, autonomous future couldn’t be greater. But that’s the appeal of Geneva; you can span the extremes of an entire industry in a single venue. So if you didn’t come this time around, make a date for March 8-18, 2018. And here’s a tip; wear comfortable shoes.