PARIS (Reuters) -- Europe's automakers will seek to dazzle at the Paris auto show starting on Thursday, revealing over 100 new models ranging from Opel's new cheap and cheerful Adam micro-mini to the McLaren P1 supercar, expected to cost more than $240,000.
But no amount of shiny chrome can distract automakers from the deep-rooted challenges facing them in the European market, the world's most competitive and its worst-performing.
Painful, unpopular decisions are now the order of the day.
Even the German manufacturers -- which had looked crisis-proof -- are no longer immune.
Volkswagen, Europe's largest carmaker, which had been doing well, stealing market share from its struggling competitors, warned on Tuesday that business conditions had become "significantly more difficult."
The U.S. car market crisis in 2008 was sharp and dramatic.
Europe's slump is shaping up to be a long distance marathon with the finish line a hoped-for 2015 recovery.
But if that turns out to be a mirage, the industry faces a bleak future indeed.
"Volume manufacturers need a market recovery -- the measures they've put in place like cost cutting and staff reductions won't be enough to return to an acceptable profitability if the market doesn't bounce back," said Stefano Aversa, co-president at consultancy AlixPartners.
In a situation like this, the smart car executive will be the one who succeeds in calling the bottom of the market and ramps up new model launches before consumers return to showrooms in 2014 or 2015.
Unless, of course, they don't.
The Paris show will demonstrate the strategies different carmakers have adopted to deal with the crisis.
One will be less of a buzz around full-electric small cars than in previous years, since the initial costs have proved prohibitive to cost-conscious consumers.
Green crossovers should attract attention, however, as carmakers hope to lure environment-conscious families.
Low-cost, no frills models like Opel's Adam and the new Sandero, made by Renault's Romanian affiliate Dacia should prove popular.
Since the Geneva auto show in March, the crisis has also spread to the premium segment, as growth in China slows.
Last week Daimler warned profits at its flagship Mercedes-Benz car division this year would fall.
As recently as late July, it had reassured investors it expected operating profit to be flat at 9 billion euros.
"We are gearing up for a challenging environment," Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche told reporters the day before it emerged that Daimler planned to cut over one billion euros in costs.