Automotive world waits for Geneva show

As construction crews lay the foundations for automakers' stands at next week's Geneva Motor Show in the Palexpo halls, the automotive world outside has entered overdrive in anticipation of the event.

Watching the feverish work inside Geneva's huge exhibition center (take a look at the webcam to see for yourself), it's tough to believe that the eyes of the world will soon be focused upon these enormous halls, filled - as they currently are - with wooden crates and cranes.

But when the 81st International Motor Show gets underway next week, the construction site will have been transformed into the stage of one of the automotive industry's glitziest events, filled with wealthy buyers, dashing celebrities and lots of stunning cars.

Geneva is one of the most important shows of the year, partially because of its location in neutral Switzerland where the world's automakers are on an equal footing and partially because of its enviable history - this show has hosted the introductions of some of the most famous cars ever made.

No surprise then, that the world's automakers are lining up to show off their introductions at this year's show, which, like its counterpart in Detroit, seems to be turning over a new green leaf.

It's hard to get away from the fact that many new releases incorporate electric or at least hybrid drive trains, from the top end in the form of the electric Rolls-Royce 120EX and the Porsche hybrid to more mainstream vehicles such as the Opel Ampera and the electric version of the Toyota iQ supermini.

Organizers say that more than 40 premieres at the show will use alternative or ecological technology, although with 260 exhibitors from 31 different countries in attendance, Geneva will continue to offer something for everyone.

Luxury vehicle lovers are especially well-catered for thanks to the presence of the majority of European prestige names, including Aston Martin, Bugatti, Ferrari, Fisker, Gumpert, Koenigsegg, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, Porsche and Spyker.

Even for those not in the market for buying or dreaming of a new car there will be plenty to do, including a peak at the future of motoring through concepts from BMW, Nissan, Smart, Rinspeed and others, a full hall dedicated to accessories and equipment suppliers and an exhibition of converted cars.

The Geneva International Motor Show begins with a press preview on February 28 and opens to the public March 3-13.

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