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2016 Geneva International Motor Show – Part 2: The come backs

I’ve been going to the Geneva Motor Show for almost as long as I know that I have a passion for cars. This year, though, was special. As mentioned in the first part, the last couple of shows did feel as exciting to me as they used to. This year however, I felt as though many car companies had risen from the ashes like a phoenix. Let’s take a look at a few of them

1) Volvo – Back to Krisprolls

Volvo S90, 2016 Geneva International Motor Show
Volvo S90, 2016 Geneva International Motor Show

Volvo had a huge, spacious stand, presenting the well known V40, their still very recent and second generation SUV XC90 and finally the much anticipated big S90 (sedan/saloon) and it’s estate version the V90. Never ever in over fifteen years of auto show visiting did I have any desire to explore the Volvo stand. This time, the S90 was the one that took my breath away. Like the XC90, it’s build according to the same clear cut and yet fluent and so typically Volvo design language. The inside, with it’s slim yet comfortable seats is a beautiful thing to be in. I admit, the quality of the interior buttons might not be quite at the top of what the industry has to offer, but it is very good.

Volvo XC90, 2016 Geneva International Motor Show
Volvo XC90, 2016 Geneva International Motor Show

Honestly, when the Chinese Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd bought Volvo from Ford in 2009, I didn’t have very much hope for the iconic Swedish car maker. First of all, because the market was already very competitive and second of all, I was afraid that the Chinese wouldn’t keep the essence of what makes a Volvo quentessentially Volvo: their classic simple design combined with the highest safety standards. Strictly speaking, Volvo is pushing very hard to bring their autonomous driving system to the market. In 2017 (yes, that’s very soon!!), they are going to put 100 self driving cars on the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden to test their self driving system in real life conditions. Now that sounds all promising and exciting. I say let’s meet again in a year and check the system out. If the quality of the car and it’s electronic systems prove to be reliable and durable, Volvo just might be at the start of a big roll!

2) PSA – Back in the Race

Peugeot 308 R Hybrid, 2016 Geneva International Motor Show
Peugeot 308 R Hybrid, 2016 Geneva International Motor Show

PSA Peugeot Citroën have come a long way and are now showing clear signs of recovery after the crisis years of the early 2010’s. Carlos Tavares, the Chairman of the Managing Board since March 2014 has been working hard on pushing his “Back in the Race” program to make PSA financially fit again, built up DS as a standalone premium brand and differentiate the brand positioning clearly between Peugeot, Citroën and DS.

I admit, having grown up around Peugeot and Citroën cars, I tend to be a bit subjective about this group and am pleased to see they are showing clear signs of recovery. PSA’s 2015 annual report says that they made a group loss of € 555 mio by the end of 2014. Only one year later they had achieved a profit of € 1’202 mio. This is amazing. Tavares himself announced on an interview in February on the French radio channel RTL that PSA is now completely debt free and that they were giving their French workforce an extra bonus of around € 2’000 per employee.

This is a nice gesture and a sign of relieve for the entire group. However, the hard work isn’t over yet. The crucial thing for them to succeed will be keep the momentum and continue working just as hard on their three brands and invest in future technologies and market trends.

In short, Peugeot has rejuvenated its model range. During the press conference Peugeot’s CEO Maxime Picat announced that they would be presenting four more SUVs for the global market. Connectivity and electrification via hybrid models will be other major investment area for the coming years. I was glad to get the confirmation for a road going version of the 308 R Hybrid concept. It is based on the 308 GTi and enhanced with two electric motors of each 115 hp, producing a total of 500 hp.

When it comes to Citroën’s future model range, they still keep their cards pretty close to their chest. Of course, they presented the all new electric E-Méhari, which they developed together with conglomerate Bolloré. All we know for sure is that they will continue to bring new models that follow the “Créative Technologie” spirit of the successful C4 Cactus; cars who simply make you feel good. The brand new C3 is set to be presented at the Paris Motor Show this september. I’m hoping to see a road going version of the Aircross concept next year and am curious to see what they will come up to replace the aging C4 and C5. Citroën’s hydropneumatic suspension is set to retire together with the C5 but Citroën CEO Linda Jackson has already announced a brand new revolutionary suspension technology for 2017.

Finally, DS is the little and young brand that has yet to prove what it’s made of. They just finished restyling the existing model range: The little hot hatch DS 3 has recently lost its Chevron and adopted the “DS Wings” front, as well as the same interior updates as the DS 4 & 5 regarding touch screen and Mirror Link / Car Play smartphone connectivity. The entire range does however start to show it’s age, although it isn’t really that old. The DS 3 & 4 were launched in 2010, followed by the DS 5 in 2011. The mentioned facelifts have also given them new engines and gearboxes. Nevertheless, I can’t wait what they have planned to bring in the future as DS’ CEO Yves Bonnefont announced during the DS press conference that the range will be made out of six globally sold cars by the end of 2020. The clock is ticking!

I do however have high hopes for the brand. The stunning all electric E-Tense concept car they presented almost looks like it could be mass produced as is. Obviously, they will probably focus on SUVs, hatchbacks and saloons/sedans first, but the important things we have to see here are the technology elements that should be carried over to the production cars. I believe that the early involvement in the young but steadily more popular Formula E with the DS Virgin Racing Team is a statement in the right direction.

3) Opel – Love your car

Opel is a car brand I usually don’t follow with much interest. But as I was walking through their stand I thought that their entire model range looked really good! The Insignia has been with us since 2008 and slightly redesigned in 2013. The brand new generation is bound to hit the roads in late 2017. The current model still looks up to date, though. So does the rest of the range: The Astra, it’s topless sister Cascada, the Adam and it’s even smaller brother Karl – a blend of fresh and colorfol models. Sure, there fit and finish is not best in class but is good and you know what? They present themselves as what they are: A mass producer of cars for the middle class, without pretending to be a Rolls Royce competitor.

Furthermore, the Opel GT concept is probably one of the highlights to remember from this year’s Geneva Motor Show: Small, simple, elegant and desirable!

4) Fiat and Alfa Romeo

After Sergio Marchionne made Fiat and Chrysler merged in 2014 following Chysler’s bankruptcy, the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) concentrated it’s efforts on Jeep and Chrysler. With the exception of the hugely successful Fiat 500 and subsequent 500X, the Fiat model range was basically non existend. Sure, some Chrysler models were garnished with a Fiat badge but that didn’t fool anyone. The same story happened to Alfa Romeo. In recent years, the Guiletta and the MiTo were pretty much all Alfa had to offer. Of course there was and still is the prestigious 4C, but that’s more an image booster than a big seller.

Today I’m glad to see that they have finally brought the Alfa Romeo Giulia and the more sporty Giulia Quadrifoglio. Fiat is getting back to the roots also, with the Tipo and a slightly redesigned Mazda MX-5 named the 124 Spyder.

Autobau Erlebniswelt Romanshorn – Part 1: Introduction

From alcohol to fuel

Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland
Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland

The brick buildings in which “Autobau” is located today belonged originally to the Federal Alcohol Administration in Romanshorn, Switzerland. In 1996, the Federation lost the exclusive right and a couple of years later the buildings were assigned to the town of Romanshorn. Fredy Lienhard, a Swiss entrepreneur as well as race car driver bought the landmarked buildings in 2007 and transformed them into this huge garage and event facility it has been since 2009. As a matter of fact, the 30’000 m2 area not only offers the exhilarating presence of around 85 cars, there is also a huge repair shop called “Factory” and a small circuit. Private events on the premises can also be booked, given the fact that Autobau offers a complete catering team in order to meet any need.

It cost the creators 12 million Swiss Francs (CHF) to renovate and transform the building to what it is today. The German word “Erlebniswelt” effectively means “a world to experience”. The building itself accentuates to the distinctive character of the whole experience: its history, the shape and materials (bricks and glass). Inside it’s even better; nice clean columns, track road imitations, model cars embedded in display windows in the floor, etc.

Porsche 550 Spyde scultpure, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland
Porsche 550 Spyder scultpure, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland
Porsche 550 Spyder scultpure, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland
Porsche 550 Spyder scultpure, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland

An entire team at your service

In total, there are seven guides available to answer any question regarding the museum and the cars. Others take care of the cars when the collection is not open to the public. In addition to them, an event manager makes sure the venue is booked regularly. I was talking to one of the guides, and he said that Autobau is more of a rolling private collection than a museum. All of the cars are in mint condition; running and road legal – with the exception of the race cars, obviously.

A hidden jewel

This collection might not be as big and as prestigious as Jay Leno’s. But that’s like saying the view from the Empire State Building is not as spectucal as from One World Trade Center. The collection is jaw dropping and unique in its whole. Furthermore, the fact that the public can access it on Wednesdays and Sundays from 4 to 8 PM for an entrance fee of 15.- CHF is just amazing. The cars are not protected in anyway. Obviously, there are a few surveillance cameras. But there you have a private collection worth millions of francs or euros or dollars (whichever you prefer) and anyone is allowed to enter, get close to the cars, touch them and even open a few of them! In a time where respect and civic engagement are about as rare as rain in Los Angeles, who else in their right mind would do that these days?! And yet here it is, ready for everybody to enjoy it! Kudos to Autobau for giving the gearheads some food.

European Cars, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland
European Cars, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland

The collection is segmented in three areas: European Supercars and Classic Cars (with a strong emphasis on Ferrari and Porsche) in the left wing of the building, Americana and British cars on the lower right wing, as well as race cars on the upper right wing.

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