2018 Paris Auto Show

The 2018 Paris Motor Show running from 2nd October was perhaps most notable for who was not there more so than what was there — Volkswagen, FCA, Ford, Opel, Nissan and Volvo were absent for the first time — but there were still many major international production car design debuts including three from BMW, and some very strong concept car designs announced also. 

Preview list

Although several brands are not to exhibit, there are still many significant new designs expected to be announced or shown for the first time in Paris, and several designs that have been released in the period since the last major auto show —Beijing — in April that will be seen for the first time outside of private events.

Core insights

There might have been less brands to see, but there felt like quite a number of really interesting and significant new designs in Paris this year. These sat across the spectrum of evolutionary 'Car 1.0' type designs as epitomised by new BMW 3 series, those that edged towards the next wave of electric ‘Car 2.0’ type designs such as the Audi e-tron, Mercedes EQC, and E-Tense DS cars, and the far-reaching concepts from Renault that posited a shared, autonomous eco-system of vehicles for the (far) future.

Peugeot e-LegendWhilst Renault showed the conceptually innovative series of three EZ autonomous vehicles, Peugeot stole much of the design community’s attention with the e-Legend. Whilst also purporting to be autonomous, the design harked back to the Pininfarina designer 504 coupe from 1974 and made a (tongue in cheek?) jibe with the hash-tag: #UNBORING THE FUTURE. An exquisite design, inside and out, but we thought that the subtle animated side illuminations and projections were perhaps the most uniquely ‘wow’ details.
Mercedes EQCArguably the most significant announcement at Paris was the first all electric car from Mercedes Benz, the EQC. Along with the Audi e-tron also debuting at Paris (and the Jaguar I-Pace announced last year) the EQC ushers in electricity to series production cars from major car brands vier the automotive heartland of the premium upper-mid-size crossovers market, and thus marks a tipping-point. In design terms the reaction from the show-floor was one of muted surprise at how normative the designs were — how little they either asserted their ‘electric ness’ or capitalised on the packaging advantages of an electric powertrain that Jaguar and Tesla have realised with their EV designs.
Mercedes EQC display-01.png
BMW 3 seriesThe new, seventh generation G20 3 series was the production car debut most talked about in Paris. An evolutionary design that changes most from its predecessor in being slightly calmer of form language, and visibly a chunk longer; its grow in length of 76mm takes it to the same length (but over 7cm wider and 3cm taller) as the E34 5 series from exactly 30 years ago. A more prominent, three dimensional grille (that is now purely cosmetic; no air flows through on those displayed in Paris) and integrated quality to the interior design were two marked impressions of the car.



The 2018 Paris Auto Show was perhaps most notable for what was not there as much as what was there. Opel, Volkswagen, Rolls Royce, Volvo, Fiat, Mini, Alfa Romeo, Infiniti and Jeep chose not to have stands. But then the Chinese car brand GAC, and new Vietnamese car brand VinFast, had strong presences amongst other new to Paris brands — and the incumbent French made a very strong showing of concept car designs, whilst BMW and Toyota both announced several major production designs. Also of marked significance at Paris was the debut of the first series-production electric car designs from both Audi and Mercedes Benz: the e-Tron and EQC.  

Perhaps the biggest take-away from the Paris Auto Show was the juxtaposition of several genres of new car design: the business-as-usual new ICE powered cars such as the 7th generation BMW 3 series and 12th generation Toyota Corolla; the new dedicated electric Mercedes EQC and Audi e-Tron (and still fresh Jaguar iPace); and the far reach of the Renault EZ concept series that posited an autonomous eco-system of vehicles that step from their Geneva shared mobility offer to encompass commercial and luxury road transport. All of this also at a show where brands reminded us of their twentieth century heritage: Porsche celebrated its 70th years with a new Speedster displayed alongside Speedsters past and all of its hyper-cars from 959 to-date; Jaguar reminded us that the XJ is 50 years old; and Renault had a lot of old (great!) metal on its stand to highlight its 120th birthday. Audi, Mercedes and Ferrari in a different way toasted the car as the classic 21st century expression of individual indulgence and escapism with extreme single seat concepts and low production run specials. And Peugeot uniquely straddled the divide with the e-Legend that beautifully took the classic seventies Pininfarina 504 coupe into the future with step-ahead ideas about lighting and HMI, and an autonomous car wrapper. 

A rich show from a car design perspective despite the no-shows, one that held up a big mirror to the past as well as some strong ideas about the future. We hope Paris (and the wider Auto Show scene) might find new relevance for more exhibitors for future shows — in this ‘experience age’ auto shows have the potential to play a valuable role to industry and public.