The Geneva Motor Show is traditionally slanted towards higher-end models and as it opened this week there were certainly plenty of supercars for the super rich on show, but manufacturers warned that spiking oil prices threaten the industry’s recovery.
However they could give a boost to demand for low-emission electric and hybrid vehicles.
European carmakers plan to make up for stagnant sales at home by accelerating into those markets that are growing – like Asia, Latin America and Russia.
Worldwide there could be sales from the retro cuteness factor like Volkwagen’s electric powered Bulli, a scaled-down and updated version of the VW Microbus so beloved by hippies.
Jacques Rivoal, who heads Volkswagen France, said: “With this kind of vehicle, we actually created the mini-van segment back in 1947. And now we would like to revive that spirit of freedom and style.”
For the moment the Bulli is a concept car, but VW said it could go into production depending on public reaction.
As for the luxury market, analysts said it is recovering but the growth in demand for those kinds of vehicles is not coming from places like the US, where ironically Fiat is about to start selling its rival to the Mini, the 500.
Instead sales of high-end models are set to rise in Brazil, Russia, India and China – now the world’s largest car market.