This year's International Auto Show in Geneva brought about design innovations and curious concepts hitting all different market segments. From customizable supercars to cute cabriolets, the following themes prevailed at the show.
Customers shopping for the latest supercar have more options than ever on factory paint and interiors. But for the truly discerning and unique individual, more and more companies are offering a genuinely bespoke design service where customers can take part in every step of the process. Much like getting a suit made, this time intensive approach requires picking from an extensive selection of some of the most beautiful materials in the world.
Ferrari unveiled its personalization service, called Ferrari Tailor-Made, which actually draws its roots from the custom coachbuiding that occurred in Maranello in the 1950s. The lucky few that qualify will be teamed with an expert Ferrari designer who will guide them through each step of the process, much like a tailor might explain the various options for tuxedo lapels.
Aston Martin also debuted their version of this deep customization program in Geneva. Called "Q" (you'll forgive them the 007 references), the service offers to elevate customization beyond paint and leather selection, giving a customer the ability to alter the external and internal styling of the cars themselves. Since almost every car in Aston's lineup is based on a common underpinning, the ability to manufacture a one-off masterpiece to a customer's specification is within reach.
A predominant theme at the show came centered on the use of non-traditional paint finishes on new models. Once seen only in rap videos and aftermarket customization, matte and satin paint have hit the mainstream. From Aston Martin and Audi down to Hyundai, nearly every major manufacturer had a model on display done up in a dull finish. Of particular note were the Mercedes Benz SL63 AMG (having its world premiere at Geneva), the new Ferrari F12berlinetta in a stunning satin aluminum, and the Aston Martin Virage in a dark blue satin with yellow accents. Of course these finishes tend to work better in the showroom than in day-to-day practicality, but this was a show after all.
Last year at Geneva was the year of the hybrid, but with GM stalling production of the Volt due to slow sales, Tesla dealing with customer backlash from a technical issue gone viral, and general tepid interest across the industry in hybrids and electric cars, automakers were less enthusiastic this year. While the penchant for gas-free vehicles may have cooled in the general market, fuel efficiency is here to stay. Manufacturers from Mercedes to Ferrari were quick to point out their gas efficiency improvements and plans for even leaner engines to come, whether they be hybrid, diesel or just evolved gas technologies.
Geneva debuted several new convertible models, ranging from accessible to the "if you have to ask" variety. The first one to note is the VW GTI Cabriolet, a topless version of Volkswagen's excellent compact car, slated only for the European market. Other droptops include the Mercedes-Benz AMG SL63, a 1200 horsepower Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse, and the one-off, completely insane Lamborghini Aventador J, which does away with a windshield as well.
The most unexpected topless rendition was the Range Rover Evoque, introduced as a concept to gauge customer interest. A convertible SUV may seem like a gamble—especially after the unfortunate Nissan Murano still fresh in memory—but luckily the Evoque maintains the character that makes it appealing as a coupe. The addition of a roll-bar on a production version would go a long way to balancing out the rugged looks with the top down.