While I was visiting the Geneva Motor Show last week, the first after the big crisis that claimed several car brands and could have claimed several more had the governments not supported them, I could not help noticing that carmakers seem to be trying to understand where their future lies.
Nearly every brand has at least one hybrid concept car or commercial vehicle on display. Even Ferrari has a 599 equipped with KERS (yes, the very same device they said was expensive and unreliable on their Formula One cars), painted in bright green.
The stars of the show are all prototypes with futuristic lines, and they all are going to be, if we believe the PR machine, "zero emission", "totally electric" or "fuel cell powered".
The reality of the showroom, with few exceptions, is different: cars are still petrol-powered, and they are getting bigger. The gain in engine efficiency is often lost to the added weight.
Audi's A1 looks like a monster when put beside a compact car from 10 years ago...
And there lies the carmakers' dilemma: the "green car" market is a small niche market. Over and over again people have been asking for power and acceleration, safety (which means weight), a bit of fun factor... and low emissions.
Not quite what Renault had on display!
Hard to make all these elements meet in the ideal car of the future... Maybe Honda will hit the target with the CR-Z? Time will tell...