Secrets of the supercar scene at Geneva Motor Show

Foxtrot Papa has attended the Geneva Motor Show for over 20 years as journalists, car manufacturer PRs and suppliers of new car launch content. Ahead of the 2017 show this week, we're reflecting on Geneva’s unique appeal as the best car show in the world for supercars, as well as new niche brands and historic auto houses.

The likes of McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, and Pagani are all back in Switzerland this year to launch new models or derivatives of their supercars and GTs. The Geneva Motor Show has always been the traditional supercar show for three simple reasons:

  • It’s neutral and has no indigenous auto brands trying to take over: everyone is equal, stand sizes are restricted and headlines are generated by the products not the budgets
  • Supercar and niche brand customers live and work there: it is genuinely a ‘selling’ show for the luxury and supercar companies who invite customers and prospects, mainly European and Middle-Eastern, who are in town anyway
  • It’s a nice place to do business: two halls full of cars that can be covered in half a day before a short (and expensive) taxi ride into town, or a short (but chilly) walk to your private jet at the airport

Back to point 1. The stand size limits set by the organisers stop the big boys taking over and allow smaller historic brands and start-ups to get involved. The result? Despite being the smallest international auto show, Geneva offers a unique opportunity for the weird and wonderful array of supercars that you may never have heard of to be seen alongside their established peers: an invaluable branding opportunity for them that helps communicate their performance aspirations.

So, looking more closely at this fascinating world of the niche and new brands, what will the Geneva 2017 auto show tell us?

Foxtrot Papa’s focus will be firmly on the small new supercar companies that keep the big guys honest and give Geneva its unique atmosphere. Electric power, connectivity, and new technologies are opening up fascinating new avenues for supercar customers. Meanwhile, the small companies’ abilities to be smart and nimble, combined with their pedigree as specialist technology or design suppliers, has generated a growing B2B customer base from the established global supercar companies, driven by the increasing need for technical advantage as a showcase.

Most of the ‘small’ supercar companies that are scattered across the shop halls are not in the (very expensive and resource-heavy) game of designing, developing, building, marketing, selling and maintaining supercars, and supercar owners. That takes massive commitment, an established dealer network, a strong customer base that knows and trusts the brand, and a full range of cars across which to amortise costs.

So, who are these ‘small kids on the block’, what are they launching and, more importantly, why?

  • Rimac Automobili, from Croatia, may well have plans for a range of supercars, but they need to build their brand before customers from Munich or Miami will trust them with their millions. What better way to do this, and make money, than provide technical assistance and powertrain components to the likes of Koenigsegg (Regera) and Aston Martin (AM-RB001): it raises their brand profile from the inside out, builds in-house technical skills and customer experiences, and gets their decision-makers close to the leading lights in the automotive industry.
  • At the opposite end of the corporate scale, Tata, one of the world’s great conglomerates, with an Indian home market of millions of future car buyers and a proven successful stewardship of Jaguar Land Rover, has struggled to build its own auto company: their Tamo sub-brand is slated to reignite that dream and launch a sports car dubbed ‘Futuro’.
  • Techrules GT96, Next EV’s NIO EP9, and Vanda Electric’s Dendrobium are all shop windows for future technologies, materials, connectivity, aero design and in-car usability, wrapped up in Scrabble-winning names and sexy curves, that they hope will promote the technologies that will cascade into their future ‘normal’ cars.
  • Zenvo and Pininfarina will be presenting their TS1 GT and EF7 Vision GT respectively, and ramping up the list of alphanumerics on display. Zenvo seems to be a straightforward play to follow in the tyre tracks of Koenigsegg and Pagani: short runs of expensive supercars from Scandinavia; whilst Pininfarina, one of the car world’s most romantic names, stands apart from the group of cars listed given they have attended Geneva Auto Shows for decades and always present beautiful styling concepts. So, more an exercise in advertising the company that will draw fans to the new H600, a Tesla-competitor deisgned in collaboration with a Hong-Kong-based technology business.
  • The Italdesign Automobili Speciali could be seen as a similar show-car concept to Pininfarina’s Vision GT given their comparable automotive styling-house heritage. But Italdesign is now owned by the VW Group and this car seems to herald the communication of that ownership leading to production runs of Italdesign-branded supercars. This makes sense given that there is a subtle gap in their product line-up where the likes of McLaren P1 and Ferrari LaFerrari play: the VW Group-owned Porsche 918 hybrid supercar and Bugatti Chiron provide ultra-high net-worths with technology and luxury respectively – Italdesign could make a play for extreme performance and/or extreme price.

So, when the dry ice has cleared and show lights switched off, there are several strategies behind an unveil in Geneva: and it’s not simply “let’s build some supercars to sell” as that would be corporate suicide with everyone from Aston Martin through to Volkswagen competing in the market. Geneva provides a spotlight on Brand, technological test-beds, and B2B engineering business, rather than an advert for a new car.

And that’s what Foxtrot Papa loves about Geneva. We will spend time meeting with our friends at the traditional car companies, but also bring home news and views from niche brands, start-ups and technology leaders. It’s the ultimate aggregated auto show, and tells us what’s happening ‘right here, right now’.

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