The 2012 Paris motor show just closed its doors – and, with more than 1.2 million visitors, was once again the world’s largest automotive gathering. More than 100 new car models were released – from mainstream bread-and-butter vehicles such as Renault’s new “Clio” or VW’s 7th generation “Golf” to high-end sports cars as Jaguar’s “F-Type” or McLaren’s “P1”. BMW presented its first ever van – featured as “Active Sports Tourer” – with front-wheel drive and 3-cylinder hybrid engine. Porsche unveiled a new version of its “Panamera” – essentially a station wagon, which Porsche marketing dubs “SportTurismo”. There were small SUV’s, large SUV’s, cross-overs, parallel hybrids, plug-in hybrids, all-electric vehicles, light-weight innovations and myriads of new electronics-based offerings such as lane-departure warning systems, in-car wifi hotspots, cloud-infotainment solutions.
So the auto industry seems to be truly on fire, its innovation engine hitting on all cylinders. Yet economic reality looks very different.