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.
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.
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.
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.