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In the limelight, exotics shrug off austerity

The mob scene at Ferrari's $1.3 million LaFerrari is typical of cars unveiled here that will transact well into the six figures.

GENEVA -- The gleaming red car you can sort of make out among the horde around it is the fastest, most expensive and most powerful Ferrari ever, called LaFerrari. The price tag reportedly will be $1 million euros (about $1.3 million). And the mob scene is typical of cars unveiled here that will transact well into the six figures.

Bentley's New Flying Spur, the Rolls-Royce Wraith (a fastback … moving into Panamera territory?) and the Lamborghini Veneno elicited similar frenzy. And the stand where the McLaren P1 stood had the auto-show equivalent of a velvet rope -- a retractable barrier strip with the auto-show equivalent of bouncers.

So where's the new austere, euro-pinching European auto industry, the one that's struggling to cut capacity and bring wages to a competitive level? Nowhere to be seen, at least at the luxo-elite displays here.

Maybe it's the irresistible allure of all that glitters and costs a ton of money. Maybe it's the kind of escapism that Hollywood movies about the upper crust provided during the 1930s. Maybe it's an evanescent buzz that won't endure beyond the bubble of Geneva's expo center.

But it's clear that new cars that are far, far beyond the means of 99 percent of the crowd gathered around them exert a strong pull. It's the automotive equivalent of celebrity.

You can reach Dave Guilford at

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