Editor's letter: 2024 Geneva motor show was small but worthy

Editor's letter: 2024 Geneva motor show was small but worthy



Renault dominated the Geneva headlines with the unveiling of the production 5

This year marked the return of one of the industry's biggest events – and proved motor shows still have their place

The 2024 Geneva motor show provided a classic case of being able to hold two conflicting opinions and believe both to be true.

You can call the show poor - although perhaps not the “pathetic” that one car maker did in private - yet still have enjoyed being there.

Geneva's problem was as much what it used to be rather than what it was. If a new show were set up in a different city and this were the result, we would probably be giving more credit for getting the manufacturers that did turn up there in the first place.

Still, the two halls were too stuffed with old cars and coffee shops; they would have been better just having the one open to create a bit more buzz and a busy feel. 

But let’s be honest: the Geneva decline started long before Covid, which was the catalyst for four subsequent cancellations of the show.

The 2019 show was down on exhibits and 2020 was looking light too, so follow that leakage of attendees and you might have ended up with the same size show as what occurred in 2024 anyway. 

Still, motor shows remain fine fare for us, simply because we get access to so many industry leaders in one place. I would call the below a fruitful day at work. Those talking up Geneva’s demise should be careful what they wish for.

*Sunday evening*

It was strange to arrive in Geneva and not have something like the Volkswagen Group night to attend, a usual prerequisite of a so-called big international motor show.

The biggest news on Sunday night actually came from Fiat, some guerilla marketing announcing its future product strategy and a preview of the new Panda in a video set in an Italian village called Ginevra. Yet it was late on a Sunday night, so it landed with a whimper, and what should have been a positive story just left people with more questions and nobody on hand at the show to answer them.

Why not just turn up at Geneva itself? By the time Monday morning came around, we had some cars we could look at and touch to write about and executives on hand to speak to them about. Fiat had been forgotten.

*Car of the Year*

Car of the Year (COTY) is a big deal for car makers, and the announcement for the winner of the 2024 award had real tension as it turned into a two-horse race between the Renault Scenic E-Tech and the BMW 5 Series.

The Scenic scooped the award in the end, a good start to the day for Renault at a show where it dominated the headlines with the unveiling of the 5. 

Watching the COTY announcement, it was just as intriguing people-watching in the crowd, as representatives from Toyota and BYD soon disappeared when it became clear they weren’t going to win.

Most of the seven shortlisted car makers had senior executives on hand to lift the trophy should they have won.

*Linda Jackson*

One such executive was Peugeot CEO Linda Jackson, who was there to see the new Peugeot 3008 take third place in the COTY final running order.

I interviewed her in a meeting room near to where in Geneva shows past a thriving media centre was sited. The proverbial tumbleweeds were blowing through this area of the Palexpo centre, and the Peugeot team (and Jackson herself) kept having to wave their hands to activate the motion-detected lights coming back on.

Still, Jackson was in fine form, promising a revolution to the interior of future models. Peugeot has increasing confidence and a growing track record of improving the quality and design of its interiors and is making that a key focus in development. “Not only is it a major reason for customers buying cars, but it’s also something we score higher on when compared to our competitors,” she said. 

It’s a very handy advantage with the rise of EVs, as there will be far fewer differentiators between cars sharing largely similar technology. Interiors are one of few places you can win in a meaningful way. 

*Mobilize V2G tech*

Two appointments on the Renault stand, first with Mobilize boss Gianluca De Ficchy and then with design chief Gilles Vidal.

It’s easy to get carried away with the design of the 5, but to do so would be to overlook some key technology developments. Among them are the introduction of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging technology, which De Ficchy believes is a very real solution to what will be a growing problem of energy storage. 

“Already today, there are several weeks of the year across all European countries where the price of energy is negative. You want to sell, you have to pay," he said. 

"This phenomenon will grow exponentially,” he believes, as energy production increases in line with demand.

V2G allows electric cars to give back energy to the grid and the owner to be paid for it. “This will make electric cars more affordable,” said De Ficchy. 

It’s complicated, requiring new contracts and deals with the grid, domestic energy suppliers and the customer, and you will need a new home charger that’s V2G-compatible, but Renault is working on offering this for the 5’s UK launch next year. 

*Renault 5 *

Renault dominated the Geneva show both with share of voice and physical footprint, but stands from Chinese brands MG and BYD were in its eyeline.

With Jackson’s comments on design fresh in my mind, I asked Vidal if distinctive design can help see off the threat of China.

“For me, it’s the key to success or possibly even survival in the future,” came the empathic response.


It's always a spectacle to be in the company of maverick Peter Rawlinson, the former Lotus and Tesla engineer who now leads Lucid.

Questions about its development as a brand aside, what can't be disputed is the technology that the American manufacturer has created – what Rawlison calls a “miniaturisation” of electric car running gear.

The result is efficiency that’s a good 25% better than Tesla's, which is already impressive, and a chunk ahead again of legacy car makers'.

Efficiency is so important, as it’s a way of allowing smaller batteries to be fitted to electric cars and dramatically bring down the size and therefore cost of the battery needed to propel them. 

If three miles per kWh is 40mpg in old money, Lucid is talking about hitting around 8mpkWh on the WLTP test, or 100mpg. 

Rawlison believes that this is the “holy grail” that will ensure that EVs will help to “save the planet”. That's the sort of statement easily dismissed as hyperbole, but in the case of Rawlinson and his track record, it’s eminently believable. 

*Will we be back?*

On my way back to the airport, I spoke to one car manufacturer who wasn’t present at the show but came to see what it was all about and speak to the organisers about its future. They told me organisers had been humble about what the show was but weren’t apologetic or promising any large growth plans.

Which leaves the show in a bit of a predicament. As a journalist, I found it useful. But if I had paid to go with my own money and had nobody to speak to professionally, I would have been sorely disappointed and felt that if I wanted to see a new 5, I would just go to my local Renault dealer.

It’s the reaction of visitors that will probably decide the show's fate, providing this absolute bare minimum number of manufacturers that attended in 2024 return. 

Yet speak to Swiss journalists and they already say that Geneva's fate has been sealed, as the government won’t support the event and that 2024 was merely a face-saving exercise.

My hunch is that we won’t be back at the Geneva motor show in Geneva, the name living on instead in Qatar as part of a peculiar licensing deal that started last year. Sad.

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