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Geneva’s Green Statement

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March 8 — Geneva — Global carmakers will tell you that the Geneva Motor Show is the show where statements are made.

And as demand for autos diversifies and the playing field heats up, so does pressure to differentiate one’s brand from the competition.

“It’s by far the most important motor show for getting any messages you’ve got across over corporately or from a product perspective,” says Colin Dodge, Nissan’s executive vice president with responsibility for Africa, the Middle East, India and Europe. “It is the show of the year for Europe.”

This year’s 260 exhibitors are aiming to impress an expected 700,000 visitors through March 18.

Product statements prove that the greening of the car industry is well underway and the overall trend is, as one executive put it, “Don’t do more, do it better.”

Three years ago, the Geneva show was the first to inaugurate a dedicated space for environmentally friendly vehicles and technologies: the Green Pavilion. This year it offers test drives of 16 hybrid and pure-electric models.

Jerry Hardcastle, vice president of design and development at Nissan Technical Center Europe, said the industry-wide trend to reduce CO2 emissions is driving the decision-making on all technology.

The challenge is finding the right mix.

“Now we’ve got hybrids, plug-in hybrids coming, electric vehicles, and in the future we’re probably looking at fuel-cell technology,” Hardcastle says. “All of these technologies are coming in. We’ve got such a diverse range of powertrains, that’s really the challenge for us as an R&D company.”

Nissan Chief Creative Officer Shiro Nakamura says that the competition is just as fierce in auto design — and intensifying every year.

“Design is becoming very competitive,” says Nakamura. “Every company is pushing design in front of brand. Brand is increasingly becoming brand expression and everyone is looking to establish their brand by design.”

British motoring journalist George Fowler says Nissan is on the right track with its new Invitation Concept, a next-generation hatchback, which promises class leading-fuel efficiency.

“If this is the future, then bring it on,” says Fowler. “It’s brilliant. The interior is fantastic. It’s the kind of car you get in and think ‘Gee, I really like this.’ It’s a warming car. It’s bristling with technology. And the best thing about it is that this is not a concept car, this is the real thing. This is going to be built in Sunderland, creating over 2,000 jobs for British workers. It’s good news for the UK.”

Set on becoming the No. 1 Asian brand in Europe and having just surpassed a record 4% local market share, Nissan’s ambition in the region — and beyond — is a statement made loud and clear.

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