Geneva Motor Show: Germans leave the stage to the Chinese

As of: February 28, 2024 8:44 a.m

Mercedes, Porsche, BMW? The once popular Geneva Motor Show is smaller this time. There are no German manufacturers – but there are many Chinese manufacturers who are increasingly pushing into Europe.

“Auto Future Now” – the motto of the 91st Geneva Motor Show shines brightly on an LED screen. And at yesterday’s VIP opening ceremony, Swiss Transport Minister Albert Rösti first addressed warm words to the “dear guests from abroad”.

There aren’t too many. Last time in 2019 there were a good 100 exhibitors present, now there are almost thirty. Where the “who’s who” of the automotive industry used to come together, Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and Co. are not there. Of the big well-known brands, only Renault is present in Geneva.

A statement, says Claudia Meyer, Managing Director of the Renault Group in Switzerland: “‘We love motor shows’ – that was a bit of the motto. It’s a passion of ours. We said we’d do it. If we European If we have shows, then we’re there. That’s a statement from us, and we stand by it.”

Serious Competition from China

Renault is presenting the new edition of an old bestseller in Geneva: the small car R5 as an electric car in a cool retro design. The fully electric Renault 5 will be available from autumn at a base price of 25,000 euros. As an affordable European alternative to the competition from China – which Renault takes seriously.

“You have to take this very seriously,” says Managing Director Meyer. “I think we still have a brand perception in Europe today – we have high quality standards. So, Mr. and Mrs. Schweizer like to spend money, but then the quality has to be right.” The manufacturers who are new to the market, on the other hand, would first have to acquire customers.

With emphasis on the European market

And that’s what they do. The absent European manufacturers have left the stage in Geneva to the Chinese. The car company BYD presents the biggest show. The Chinese brand is showing three new models for the European market at the trade fair. Among them is a sprawling SUV with four electric motors from the Yangwang brand – the U8, which rotates spectacularly on the spot in the exhibition hall.

“Yes, there is a lot that is completely new for Europe,” says Ralf C. Kaiser, BYD’s German communications director. “It’s very important for us to be able to show our brand and our products. Certainly not everyone knows BYD yet.” But the company hopes to be able to change this a little with Geneva.

The Chinese car company wants to establish itself in Europe – and is investing: it will open a factory in Hungary in 2025.

Football field instead of a trade fair stand

The fact that the Geneva motor show is now much smaller after a four-year break – instead of the previous 600,000 visitors, a maximum of 200,000 are expected this year – does not bother the BYD spokesman: “I think trade fairs still have an attraction. For us it is a highlight of the year. Just like the IAA is also a highlight. This year the Paris Motor Show may also be a highlight. But everything is on a completely different scale than it was many years ago.”

There are now alternative concepts for bringing cars closer to consumers, says Kaiser. The brand is a sponsor of this year’s European Football Championship in Germany. To thank the Chinese car company, UEFA even brought the trophy to the Geneva exhibition hall for a photo opportunity.

Meanwhile, the only European car manufacturer there, Renault, launched an appeal to the absent colleagues. Renault boss Luca de Meo demanded that European manufacturers of electric cars should work more together to assert themselves against competition from China.

Kathrin Hondl, ARD Geneva, tagesschau, February 28, 2024 7:46 a.m

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