Crisis in rear-view as Geneva car show revs up

The front end of McLaren's brand new P1 GTR seems to form a knowing smirk, a pointer perhaps towards the race-track ready motor powering this $2 million dream car.

Crisis in rear-view as Geneva car show revs up
Visitors at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

It is one of 90 sleek never-before-seen machines due to have their world premières when the Geneva Motor Show opens on Thursday.

After being dogged by malaise since crashing into the economic crisis in 2008, the European car industry is finally picking up speed.

Luxury sports cars, high-end SUVs and "green" cars will be bumper-to-bumper at the show — one of the auto industry's biggest and most diverse events — with around 900 shiny vehicles and more than 130 new models and "concept cars" on display.

Among the eagerly awaited newcomers are Renault's new cross-over SUV Kadjar, aimed at taking on Nissan's popular Qashqai, a new version of Skoda's flagship Superb sedan, as well as a new Ford Focus RS.

But such family-oriented cars will as always need to battle for attention with the latest generation of jaw dropping luxury vehicles.

Ferrari is launching its new 488 GTB supercar, while Austin Martin will unveil its new race car inspired Vantage GT3.

"Green" cars, boasting next-to-no emissions, and concept vehicles focused on the autonomous vehicles of a driverless future are also expected to draw crowds at the show.

"The Geneva Motor Show will open in a positive context for the European car industry," said auto market analyst Flavien Neuvy of Cetelem credit company.

With sales on the continent up 5.7 percent last year and swelling 6.7 percent in January, there is finally something to get excited about.

The European Automobile Manufacturer's Association (ACEA) has meanwhile predicted a cautious two percent growth for the European car market in 2015.

The positive mood in the industry will certainly rub off on the display of new vehicles, according to Euler Hermes analyst Yann Lacroix.

Trade shows generally reflect "the overall climate in the car sector," he said, pointing out that "the market is growing a bit, company results are improving, so we're on a positive track."

But the European car industry still has a way to go before fully returning to pre-crisis sales volumes.

Last year, only 12.5 million cars were sold in the European Union, compared to 16 million in 2007.

And the recovery remains uneven, with southern European countries like Spain, Italy and even France facing a particularly steep climb.

But shrinking oil prices may help jump-start the process, according to observers.

Black gold recently tumbled to a six-year low of just over $40 (over €35) per barrel, resulting in lower fuel prices that are "revitalising household purchasing power a bit", said PwC analyst Josselin Chabert.

"Consequently, if the tendency continues, this could soften the effect of the crisis, which European countries still have not fully exited," she said.

After being forced to undergo painful and dramatic restructuring processes during the crisis, French car manufacturers are finally able to be more upbeat.

PSA Peugeot Citroen, which almost plunged off a cliff a year ago, said recently it had slashed its losses by three quarters and posted its first operational profit in three years.

Renault meanwhile announced it would create 1,000 permanent jobs in France this year on the back of a strong growth in profits in 2014.

Despite their recovery, the French manufacturers are still trailing behind German carmaker Volkswagen, which with its range of brands like VW, Audi and Skoda, alone accounts for a quarter of the European market.

The German behemoth appears set to this year take the lead in global auto sales for the first time, if it manages to swerve past Toyota.

Another German carmaker, Borgward, will make its return at the show. It went belly up more than half a century ago and may have a new model to show off.

The 85th edition of the show, which will take place March 5-15th and expects to draw some 670,000 visitors, will offer up 90 world premiers and 41 European premiers.

"There will be quite a few luxury vehicles. That is part of the trademark of Switzerland, where purchasing power is not the same as in other countries," Lacroix said.

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Is Basel the best Swiss city for foreigners and Geneva the worst?

Switzerland’s cities usually nab top rankings in international quality of living studies. But in a new survey, only one Swiss town made it to the top 10. Here’s why.

Basel is Switzerland’s best city for international workers. Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash
Basel is Switzerland’s best city for international workers. Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash

Basel is ranked in the 9th place out of 57 cities surveyed in the new Expat City Ranking 2021.

Carried out by InterNations, the annual survey rates cities around the world in terms of advantages they offer to foreign nationals who move there for professional reasons.

READ MORE: The best commuter towns if you work in Basel

The survey, which polled 12,420 people for its 2021 edition, ranks cities based on criteria such as Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work Life, Finance & Housing, and Local Cost of Living, along with their sub-categories.

Of the four Swiss cities analysed in the study — Geneva, Zurich, Basel, and Lausanne — only Basel was highly rated, and is one of only three European cities ranked in the top 10 (the others are Prague, in 7th place, and Madrid in 10th).

This is why

A popular destination for international employees because of its pharmaceutical industry, including giants like Roche and Novartis, Basel ranked well across all categories.

For instance, it is in the 1st place for its public transportation network, in a 2nd position in terms of Quality of Urban Living, and in 3rd for Safety & Politics.

All expats in Basel (100 percent) are satisfied with public transportation, versus 69 percent globally. The public transportation system is excellent”, one respondent said.

Nearly all participants (97 percent) feel safe there, against 84 percent globally. The city also performs well in the Urban Work Life Index (6th), particularly for the state of the local economy, which is in the 1st place and the working hours (8th); additionally,  75 percent are happy with their working hours, compared to 66 percent globally.

More than four in five expats (84 percent) find their disposable household income enough or more than enough to cover their expenses (versus 77 percent globally), and 77 percent are satisfied with their financial situation (against 64 globally).

Where Basel is doing less well is in the  Finance & Housing Index (34th place), though it still ranks ahead of other Swiss cities: Zurich (37th), Lausanne (39th), and Geneva (53rd).

But the city ranks 48th in the Local Cost of Living Index: 69 percent of foreigners living there are dissatisfied with the cost of living, more than double the global average (34 percent).

The Getting Settled Index (39th) is another of Basel’s weak points. Internationals struggle with getting used to the local culture: more than one in four respondents (26 percent) state that they find this difficult — this figure is 18 percent 1globally.

It is worth mentioning that in the 2020 InterNations survey, Basel ranked in the 24th place, so it progressed impressively this year.

What about Geneva?

Switzerland’s most “international” city due to the presence of a number of United Nations agencies and multinational companies, places near the bottom of the ranking, in the 47th place.

“It has the worst results among the Swiss cities included in the report and is the only one that does not rank in the global top 10 of the Quality of Urban Living Index”, InterNations said.

Similar to the other Swiss cities, Geneva ranks among the top 10 for political stability (1st) and in the bottom 10 for the affordability of healthcare (56th). However, it lags behind for all other factors, with expats particularly dissatisfied with the local leisure options (23 percent versus 14 percent globally).

“Interestingly, the comparably low quality of life does not make Geneva any easier to afford: on the contrary, it is the worst-ranking city worldwide in the Local Cost of Living Index (57th) and by far the worst-rated Swiss city in the Finance & Housing Index (53rd)”, the report noted.

It added that “while Geneva comes 26th in the Finance Subcategory, it ranks 55th in the Housing Subcategory, only ahead of Dublin (56th) and Munich (57th). Expats find housing in Geneva unaffordable (87 percent  vs. 39 percent globally) and hard to find (63 percent vs. 23 percent globally).”

READ MORE: Why is Geneva’s rent the highest in Switzerland?

Geneva has a fairly average performance in the Urban Work Life Index (28th) but receives worse results in the Getting Settled Index (43rd). It ends up in the bottom 10 of the Feeling Welcome (52nd), Local Friendliness (50th), and Friends & Socializing (48th) subcategories.

“It is certainly not easy to integrate into the local culture and community,” said one respondent. In fact, 35 percent find the locals generally unfriendly, against 16 percent globally).

The difficulty is making friends in Switzerland is a well-known phenomenon among the international community.

READ MORE: ‘Suspicious of the unknown’: Is it difficult to make friends in Switzerland?

Maybe this is also why they find it hard to get used to the local culture (32 percent versus  18 percent globally) and do not feel at home — 33 percent compared to 19 percent  globally).

Zurich and Lausanne

The two other Swiss cities with a high proportion of international residents fall between the “best” and the “worst”, with Lausanne in the 21st place and Zurich in the 34th.

“All of them rank among the bottom 10 worldwide for the local cost living but among the top 10 for the local quality of life— except for Geneva, which lands in 21st place.”, the survey noted.

This InterNations chart shows how the four the cities are doing in each category. Please click here for a larger version of the chart. 

Image: Internations

You can find out more about each of the four cities from these links. 

READ MORE: Ten things Zurich residents take for granted

Zurich versus Geneva: Six big differences between Switzerland’s two biggest cities

Swiss town ranked the ‘world’s best small city’