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(Not the) 2020 Geneva Auto Show

For the first time since the second world war, the Geneva Auto Show has been cancelled. Two days after show organisers reconfirmed the show would run, albeit already following the withdrawal of a few exhibitors, the Geneva auto show was cancelled on Friday 28th February, 3 days before the first media day, as a consequence of the Swiss government ruling that no public gatherings of more than 1000 people may take place as precautionary measure against the spread of the Covid 19 virus that is infecting people within many nearby regions. None-the-less, all of the new designs due to be presented at the show are just as significant as before, so please see here our (Not the) 2020 Geneva Auto Show coverage as these designs are unveiled, many still following the original timings of the auto show press conference schedule. 

Preview list

Geneva looked like being a ‘bumper year’ with some really strong new design debuts: from the eighth generation Volkswagen Golf, to the radical Citroen Ami electric quadricycle, to the one of twelve Bentley Mulliner Bacalar. Other designs, include the important new Toyota Yaris, Seat Leon, and Mercedes E-class, and some designs that were not destined to be shown in Geneva (as is increasingly the trend) like the JLR Project Vector and GMD Motiv that show new thoughts on Car 2.0. Also concepts from DS, Hyundai, Renault, and Polestar, as well as a bounty of interesting new supercars typical of this Swiss show, and potentially several exciting designs from the Italian FCA brands — Geneva 2020 was going to be a great show, but both our coverage here and in our Design Trends Reports for (Not the) 2020 Geneva Auto Show will be much as if the show had run!

Core insights

Whilst it is odd not to have been scrutinising new cars in Geneva this year, there has been a huge volume of material published on-line, not least a spectrum of impromptu press conferences undertaken by brands in different styles and hosted by Geneva Auto Show here:  https://www.gimsvirtualpressday.ch 

Without a doubt it is a big loss not to see new designs ‘in-the-metal’, to be able to sit in them, and to touch and use facets of them also as we have done at every Geneva show for over twenty years and do all the other major shows also. But, with the whole team focused on desk research, remotely engaging with OEM car brands design teams, and seeing a few at smaller unveils the (Not the) 2020 Geneva Auto show has proven to be a strong year with many major design debuts. 

Citroen Ami A truly innovative design by all measures: following its namesake in show car form from last year in its core concept, but debuting now in production form; this is the first proper automotive OEM dedicated electric quadricycle (technically not a car in Europe so not required to follow the same legislation). This super small vehicle (2.41m x 1.39m x 1.52m - markedly smaller than the Smart Fortwo) has notable design details including: 2CV style flip-up side windows; identical doors on the left and right (rear hinged for the driver); bumpers and panels mirrored from to rear to reduce part numbers and thus production costs; an interior that prioritises the user’s phone and other accoutrements. The Ami also pioneers with a set of four very comprehensive CMF packs centred on blue, orange, grey and khaki. 6000 Euros including tax is a major headline too.
Citroen Ami .jpg
Volkswagen GolfAnnounced after the Frankfurt Auto show last year, and now in German dealerships, but set to have made its show debut this week along with the just announced GTI/E/D versions, the 8th Generation Golf is the most significant production design of this period. The new Golf sits on an updated platform from the previous 7th generation design (it is an inch longer, and the same height and width) and also consciously retains a core Golf design theme, much defined by the thick C-pillar, which makes for a very subtle evolution — this is the smallest Golf iteration since the 6. In its headlight design it changes most from its predecessor; they are visually lower as they hang below a horizontal light line that extends them across the grille aperture, and being a car destined to sell in such numbers and from such an influential brand, it likely sets in stone this trend that we first saw in China and on the Mercedes Benz EQC. Although different cars, the parallel debut of the Audi A3 Sportback, Skoda Octavia (in RS guise), and Seat Leon, further underscore the importance of the Golf 8 debut as its platform also underpins those of these sibling brand products.
Volkswagen Golf .jpg
Renault Morphoz concept Conceptually stemming from a future scenario where many cars will be shared, the Morphoz concept centres on offering two modes of use: Travel and City, for inter and intra-urban journeys, and with both affecting many aspects of the UX and, uniquely, the length of the car also: the body of the Morphoz morphs in length to accommodate different battery capacities at the front, different passenger space needs at the rear of the cabin, and different trunk volume at the back fo the car. In aesthetic the design takes the meshing fins that sit over its morphing joins and takes this motif into the lights, and inside the car delivers the unusual luscious innovative environment we have come to take for granted from recent Renault show cars, along a morphing IP and front passenger seat also.
Renault Morphoz Concept.jpg
BMW i4A show car preview of a very similar production design evidences a new direction BMW are taking with their i sub-brand — notably juxtaposing a cab-rearward classical four-door coupe design typography with the pure electric drive of a sub-brand notable for ripping up rule books with the i3 and i8. In concept form the i4 is interesting for its use of light interior colours and coppery gold to complement its BMW i blue highlights and maybe underscoring also its marriage of classical with contemporary. The design is also significant for having the same front aspect as the BMW 4 Concept for Frankfurt with deep, upright, angular and protruding forwards double-kidney grille, for its new take on the BMW roundel, and the three ‘experience modes’ of its new in-car UX.
BMW i4 Concept .jpg

Synopsis

It’s not happened before and we hope it won’t happen again, although New York (despite what organisers are currently saying) will likely not run, and Beijing has already been indefinitely postponed. Covid-19 is clearly impacting on life and the world in more significant ways, but evidently is taking its toll on Auto shows also, and Geneva is testimony to that. With a context of the waning auto show in general — Frankfurt has had its last show, and all bar the Chinese shows are less than they once were in this ‘digital age’ — the hastily prepared variety of brand specific announcements demonstrate also how much remote delivery can achieve. Maybe this forced pause will enable a regrouping and a new approach to realise more of the ‘experience age’ that we also live in to be evident in future shows? 

Renault Morphoz Concept.jpgitaldesign Aspid, Aztec and Asgard.jpgBMW i4 Concept sketch.jpgFrom an automotive design perspective there were so many trends we see in the new designs announced this week and those also presented over the last few weeks and months. Yellow is predictably much evident, some exterior aesthetic treatments are also clearly emergent, not least the explicit communication of the technical with various ‘information panels’ (perhaps pioneered the Ital Design Audi Aztec concept from 1988?!), and other conceptual and HMI design trends. Perhaps also interesting to see this year — and our remote viewing maybe enhances this — is the growth in the communication of the ‘design sketch’ (evidently often created after the event to wholly align with the final design and not expose creative ideas too hard to realise!) in communicating the equity of these new designs. Like much of our audience perhaps, we think there remains much scope to better leverage the value of design in the communication of cars to media and customer, and maybe this trend is part of a widening recognition of this…

Here’s to realising some of the best case scenarios ahead for 2020!