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High expectations for "green" cars

Latest update : 2008-03-06

The Geneva motor show in Switzerland is usually a showcase for extravagant car design. But this year's event is more about simple and environmental friendly vehicles. (Report: FRANCE 2)

This week at the Geneva Auto Show, all the manufacturers are expected to be "green."

With the price of oil topping 100 dollars a barrel, and growing regulation against so-called gas-guzzlers in western Europe, vehicles that boast energy efficiency and environmental credentials are seen as the latest hot ticket for car makers and clients alike.

Hybrid cars, and models powered by electricity, hydrogen or biofuels will all be on display at the 78th car show, where more than 700,000 people are expected to attend between March 6 and 16.

Two hundred and fifty exhibitors will be showing off their wares at the vast Palexpo exhibition centre on the outskirts of Geneva.

One hundred and thirty new models will be unveiled, including around 20 which are powered by electricity or other alternative energy sources.

The annual gathering comes at a delicate time for the established European carmakers, who are faced by rapacious competition from Asia while their traditional home markets are stagnating.

The European car market grew by 1.1 percent in 2007, with more than 16 million new registrations.

However, growth was far from uniform: Eastern Europe recorded 14.5 percent growth while the traditional markets of western Europe rose by a mere 0.2 percent.

In the first month of 2008, sales of new cars in Europe declined by 0.3 percent.

Manufacturers are thus attempting to refine their product line, bringing out new ranges of cars designed for zipping around cities, as well as off-road leisure models.

"Demand has changed, it has got more and more fragmented, and supply is following suit, in line with consumer evolution," an analyst for Natexis bank said.

The car show will not be without more exotic attractions however, including a "submarine" car that can be driven underwater, similar to a model famously seen in a James Bond film.

The convertible 'Squba' sports car transforms into an underwater vehicle in which passengers breathe with the help of compressed air masks.

"For three decades I have tried to imagine how it might be possible to build a car that can fly under water," said the car's Swiss designer, Frank Rinderknecht.

"Now we have made this dream come true."

Date created : 2008-03-06