Geneva Motor Show opens to the public after confident start

As the Geneva Motor Show opens to the public March 3 after a packed press preview, organizers and automakers can breathe a sigh of relief that they appear to have hit the right balance with the models on show.

Held in a country more famous for neutrality than for its automotive prowess, Geneva prides itself on offering something for everyone - automaker and visitor alike - and hasn't been shy to embrace defiant symbols of raw, gas-guzzling power alongside new green vehicles now commonplace in the world's shows.

The interest generated by new prestige models on display from top-end automakers, such as the new four-wheel-drive Ferrari FF, the Lamborghini Aventador and the Maserati GranCabrio, proves that there is still a healthy market for cars that offer beauty and performance alone among those who can afford it.

At the lower end of the market the story was the same, with new crossover SUVs such as the Mazda Minagi, the SEAT IBX, the Renault Captur and the Fiat Freemont showing that automakers believe large vehicles stlll have a place among a young, urban audience - despite the fact that the debut of the Chrysler-designed Freemont did typify a "strong European prejudice against American vehicles," according to USA Today.

Of course, the current price of oil and looming government emissions targets aren't far from the mind of anybody in the automotive industry, and the recent trend towards smaller, lighter and greener cars isn't going to go away.

Barely an introduction went by without a mention of dramatic improvements in emissions (and that went for the supercars as well as the sedans), with cars such as the Kia Rio, the new Prius+ hybrid and the Mitsubishi e-compact concept exemplifying automakers' efforts to squeeze every mile from the fuel that they're using.

Thanks to Geneva's unashamed appeal to a wealthy audience, the British, German and Italian marques who showed up in force with fantastically-priced new models stopped electric vehicles from stealing the show - but it was close and those visitors who doubt that the future of mobility is electric before they visit are unlikely to leave with the same impression.

Almost every automaker had or was talking about its plans for electrified models, even if, as with Rolls-Royce and the new 102EX concept, they didn't sound entirely convinced.

Consumers got their first glimpse at the Opel Ampera, coming to market in late 2011, along with other EVs from big names such as Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

This year's show won't go down in history for one particular reason, but the vehicles on show display a confidence and ingenuity which the auto industry didn't have at this time last year - perhaps suggesting that automakers are getting to grips with a very, very uncertain future.

The Geneva Motor Show is open to the public March 3-13 in Geneva, Switzerland.

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