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Luxury and losses at the Geneva motor show

The Geneva motor show is underway and with the car industry in Europe taking a financial beating in 2012, the show is a strange cocktail of exotic extravagance against a backdrop of industry austerity. General Motors and Toyota are hoping to blow the financial cobwebs away with the introduction of the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible and the GT86 open respectively.

The Geneva motor show is underway and with the car industry in Europe taking a financial beating in 2012, the show is a strange cocktail of exotic extravagance against a backdrop of industry austerity. General Motors and Toyota are hoping to blow the financial cobwebs away with the introduction of the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible and the GT86 open respectively. While they might lift the mood when they lift their roofs, there is much more exotica on show which completely ignores the industry's economic woes. Ferrari is unveiling its F-150 Enzo replacement at a cool £1million plus, while McLaren is showing its P1 hypercar.

 
For expensive tastes that run to luxury rather than supercar performance, Bentley is displaying its new Flying Spur while Rolls-Royce is taking the wraps off of its new and hugely powerful Wraith model. Rolls-Royce has ambitiously priced the car above the Bentley Continental range, catering for those for whom the Bentley is just not expensive enough.
 
Back in the real world, Stephen Odell, president of Ford Europe, took time out to comment on the dire economic conditions in Europe which saw car sales fall by an estimated 8.2% in 2012. He said: "It started as a sovereign debt issue, which is a financial issue, but in tandem it came to be a consumer confidence issue." This lack of consumer confidence has undoubtedly been a factor in declining sales on the continent, a trend that has continued into 2013. The contraction also has a distinct geographical dimension, with Korean manufacturer Kia's boss in the UK, Paul Philpott, pointing out: "The further south you go, the tougher it gets." He was referring to sales in Spain, France and Italy which have been especially poor. 
 
IHS Automotive analyst also pointed out: "The picture of the European market is pretty bleak to say the least and it is difficult to see much in the way of positive news or growth potential moving forward." The situation though is not uniform and the UK and some other European marques, continue to do well. Nissan boss Andy Palmer is particularly blunt about the future for some European car makers: "The industry is Darwinistic by its nature. The strong will survive and the weak will die." Against this challenging background most major manufacturers clearly see greener vehicles as a growth market and Volkswagen for example are moving their astonishing XL1 car into production. Volkswagen claims this will be the most frugal car in the world with consumption figures of a truly remarkable 313mpg.
 

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