Prize-winning jams at the show

There was a deep irony in the massive congestion around Geneva airport in Switzerland last week. The heavy traffic and long delays for people trying to catch flights was due to the city’s annual motor show, described by pundits as the biggest and most important in Europe.

I arrived on time in the centre of Geneva for a series of unrelated meetings, thanks to the ever-efficient Swiss railway system. But navigating the city was difficult, due to the crowds and the increased traffic. The motor show takes place at the Palexpo centre out by the airport, some way from the centre of town. Yet tens of thousands of extra people swamped Geneva and its surrounds. Many, it seemed, eschewed the railways and came by car.

A glance at the press coverage confirms Geneva’s stature as the leading motor show. But for all the photographs of incredible multi-million pound luxury sports cars, the highly polished examples of luxury marques and the models draped over exhibitors’ stands like some 1970s throwback, real innovation was rather short of supply.

Where, for instance are the cars that will do 100 miles to the gallon? Where is the real technological wizardry that will enable people to keep driving, albeit with a negative or negligible environmental footprint? Still some way off, it seems. 

There were some innovations, to be sure. Hybrid electric motors and some quirky designs, as always. But the congestion outside the exhibition halls told the real story – we still haven’t really solved the big transport problems of our time.