Japanese carmakers were first off the grid on March 4 at the Geneva auto show, showcasing their latest environmentally friendly designs in an industry desperate to wave its "green" credentials. Nissan was in pole position for the 78th Geneva Auto Show, unveiling a Pivo 2 model that resembled a futuristic bubble car and is powered by an electric lithium ion battery. The car "delivers a unique combination: greater pleasure of mobility coupled with environmental responsibility," according to Nissan executive vice president Carlos Tavares. The Pivo 2 can rotate 360 degrees, reverse without changing gears and move sideways, with a compact disc motor in each wheel.
Nissan is "committed to substantial progress across all environmentally friendly drive systems" including electric cars and "hybrid" models, Tavares said. Despite high oil prices, environmental concerns and increased competition from China and India, Nissan remained confident and expected 2007 sales to come in above 3.7 million units, a new record. Russia drove sales last year in Europe, rising more than tenfold since 2003 to over 120,000 units in 2007, Tavares said. Nissan's competitor Honda also highlighted Russia and Ukraine as the main drivers behind European growth.
By contrast, "the German market is very tough now, but the UK is steady," Honda chief executive officer Takeo Fukui said. Honda expects European sales of 420,000 units in 2008, up 11% from 376,000 the previous year which was already a record, he said.
For the industry as a whole, the European car market grew by 1.1% in 2007, with more than 16 million new registrations. However, growth was far from uniform: Eastern Europe recorded 14.5% growth while the traditional markets of Western Europe rose by a mere 0.2%. In the first month of 2008, sales of new cars in Europe declined by 0.3%.
The company unveiled its new 'Accord' model in Geneva. The Accord has been a mainstay of Honda's range since it was first introduced in 1976, with 16 million units sold worldwide. The new Accord range will be powered by 2.0 and 2.4 liter petrol engines and a new 2.2 liter diesel engine, all of which will meet new EU emission regulations that come into effect next year, Fukui said.
All carmakers are at pains to stress their "green" credentials at the Geneva show, which will see 250 exhibitors display their wares at the vast Palexpo exhibition centre on the outskirts of Geneva until March 16. One hundred and thirty new models will be unveiled, including around 20 of which are powered by electricity or other alternative energy sources.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008