We are less than a week away from the start of this year’s Paris Auto Show. There is a lot of hype surrounding the biennial auto show as over a dozen new cars will make their debut at Porte de Versailles. Digital images of concept cars can be found scoured all over the internet in an attempt fuel people’s expectation and excitement. Hybrid and electric cars have made their way into headlines as Nissan, Toyota, Peugeot and others will unveil their greenest models yet. Not to be out done, McLaren and Maserati are set to make their newest additions to the list of cars that normal people can only dream of owning.
However, with the reality being that the European auto industry is in utter disarray, all the internet hype feels a little like a cheap magic show—misdirection. If you have read the headlines over the past few days you will have undoubtedly seen things like:
• Italian car orders slump 35% in first 10 days of September
• French minister: PSA Peugeot Citroën should cut in Spain, not just France
• Fiat will cut hours rather than shut Italian plant, unions say
• Renault's Slovenia unit to cut production, work force
• Opel to cut 1,000 administrative jobs in Germany
• Ghosn sees long recovery for automakers in Europe, but rules out "Armageddon"
After years in the red, are these concept cars and publicity stunts, really the most effective way to climb back into the black? Pumping millions of dollars into R&D doesn’t seem like the best strategy when most companies are scaling back their production across the board. McLaren and Maserati, don’t count because they exist in a different realm of the auto industry, but how about car makers like Peugeot and Nissan-Renault? Can they bail themselves out in the European market with fancy new additions to the ever growing hybrid domain? I guess we will have to wait and see.
But, hey! Who wants to address the real issues when we can spend two weeks looking at shiny new cars? The message is pretty clear—put on your finest clothes, your fakest smiles, and just pretend it’s all going to be ok.