Although it's a bit early to be calling for spring, every year about this time, Geneva shows off the Continent's best in terms of a motor show. This year will be no exception.
One of the nice things about Geneva is that it is a real Pan-European, or maybe global, auto show. Perhaps it's the only one in the world. The Frankfurt show is dominated by the German manufacturers; Paris is dominated by the French; and Tokyo by the Japanese. And at the Detroit show, American manufactures hold center stage.
That simply doesn't happen in Geneva. Each automaker is allocated floor space based on its sales in Switzerland. This effectively maintains the country's well-known neutrality.
Although many of the European auto executives are there for a day or two, the cars are the stars. The executives are busy talking to journalists, but the real action is on the stands. This year, as always, there will be plenty of new models to admire.
But for Americans, it's strange on two counts. First, and most important, the vast majority of vehicles that are on display in Geneva will never be seen in the United States. They are for the European consumer, and we Americans simply don't see Opels, European Fords, Fiats, Renaults, Peugeots, Rovers, etc. And of the companies with which we are familiar, there won't many models that are sold exclusively in North America.
The other strange part of Geneva and other global shows is simply that they are primarily car shows. No one outside North America understands how important pickups, vans and sport-utilities are to the U.S. market. They account for nearly 50 percent of the new vehicles sold in the United States, and just about zero in Europe. It makes you wonder what 'global' market people are talking about. Europeans are starting to take a liking to smaller versions of our minivans, but you sure don't see any pickups - and they simply wouldn't know what to do with a Suburban or an Excursion.
A lot of news will come out of Geneva. Merger fever is at an all-time high, so it's safe to assume that the rumor mill will be working full speed.
It's a great show, and a lot will happen in Switzerland, but it is all about Europe.