As Chicago gets underway, carmakers look ahead to Geneva

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Despite the excitement of the recently-opened Chicago Auto Show, the buzz in the industry is now around Geneva, which opens March 4. It's as big and as influential as Detroit, with one key difference -- this show doesn't play favorites.

(Relaxnews) -

Despite the excitement of the recently-opened Chicago Auto Show, the buzz in the industry is now around Geneva, which opens March 4. It's as big and as influential as Detroit, with one key difference - this show doesn't play favorites.

The irony of Switzerland not having its own car industry appears to be lost on the organizers of the Geneva International Motor Show. Every year, they invite the world's major car manufacturers to display their wares, and every year, the brands turn up en masse. Geneva is one of the biggest shows in the industry, in part down to its legendary impartiality - with no homegrown competitors, every one of the 100-plus debuts expected this year will receive equal treatment.

The show is the only European exhibition that takes place annually - the similarly sized shows in Paris and Frankfurt are biennial. It is also one of the most glitzy in the calendar - Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Rolls-Royce amongst others have huge displays and have used the show in the past to stage new models. In fact, one criticism last year was that the show wasn't reflective of the dire state of the industry - as the US automakers crumbled, manufacturers unveiled new models with astronomical price tags.

This year, the current debuts expected are down to earth - sort of. Renault is set to launch the new Wind, a new roadster vehicle first introduced as a concept to Geneva since years ago. The two-seater coupe roadster features an electric roof that opens up in under 12 seconds. Mazda is also believed to be readying a significant facelift of its Mazda5 minivan, aiming to underline its green credentials with its "i-stop" stop system, which pauses the engine, rather than halting it entirely.

At the top end, Audi is expected to launch the hotly anticipated A1 compact, based on the A1 Sportback concept featured at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. Porsche has released images of the 911 Turbo S, a top-end version of the 911 Turbo boasting a top speed of 196 mph (315 km/h). Ferrari is also reported to be preparing a Ferrari 599 hybrid concept, for an introduction at the show, although a production version is not thought to be in the pipeline.

These cars will be spread across 80,000 square meters and seven halls of the Palexpo Exhibition Centre, along with hundreds of others. The show historically has provided surprises from its attendees, and as the industry recovers, there's no reason to expect that this year will be any different. One of the most high-profile surprises is likely to be the three finalists for the World Car of the Year Award which will be unveiled on the first day, whittled down from ten shortlisted models by the 59-judge international panel.

The Chicago Auto Show ends on February 21. The Geneva International Motor Show runs March 4-14 at the Palexpo conference centre.

Website: http://www.salon-auto.ch/

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