On the eve of the 2016 Geneva motor show, Andrew English provides an idea of what to expect, and assesses the health of the European new car market
As the 86th Geneva motor show prepares to open its doors tomorrow, a few of us hacks are wearily working out how many of those we have attended - your correspondent has been to 26.
Originally praised for its compactness, its impartiality and the strictures of the organisers who wouldn't allow two-storey stands in the middle of the halls, or entry to liggers and interlopers on press day, all that has changed. Modern Geneva achieves a sort of hysterical meltdown about a month before, when press offices go into overload booking extra interviews, planes, hotels and cars.
Anyone can buy a ticket for press day, so there's a sweepstake on who spots the first press-day pram and the number of halls and exhibits has increased so hugely that spotting the genuinely new and interesting would be well nigh impossible were it not for the impenetrable throngs around each new launch.
So given that this year's show is pretty much a 10 per cent bigger version of last year's, what is new in Europe for 2016? First is the recovery, or rather the limp back. Headline figures for 2015 show a 9.3 per cent annual growth in new-car registrations to 13,713,526 and January's registrations up 6.1 per cent are the 27th straight month of new-car sales growth in Europe.
All well and good, but as the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) points out, it's from a low base, so low in fact that last year's sales are only just overtaking those of 2010, which was a year after the banking crisis hit hard.
Volkswagen suffered a market share fall of around 1.1 per cent for January against its market position in the same month last year. Perhaps that's a consequence of all that lying and cheating about harmful exhaust emissions, perhaps people are just bored with the Golf, though it still maintains a strong if slightly tarnished lead as Europe's most popular car. Strange thing is that Audi hasn't suffered at all and actually grew its share in January; do people not know who owns this four-ringed marque?
According to market intelligence specialists, Jato, the top-ten European models in January were the Golf followed by the VW Polo, Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Peugeot 208, Nissan Qashqai, Vauxhall Corsa, Skoda Octavia, Vauxhall Astra and Fiat Panda.
One interesting statistic out of this is that while none of the other top ten have sales of more than 40 per cent from their home countries, the Panda's sales come 79 per cent from Italy. Go figure.
Still, Geneva isn't a time to ponder the humdrum or even the exotic - there's far too much on the stands to do much more than rush round and report. Fortunately you'll have Telegraph Car's expert team on hand tomorrow to sort the wheat from the chaff - and trip over the prams of course.
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