Carmakers pin hopes on green technology

The global auto industry may be in the doldrums, but its reps are putting on a brave face at the Geneva Motor Show, pinning their hopes on green technology, which for the first time is taking centre stage.


Car manufacturers are pushing their green credentials at the Geneva Motor Show in an effort to beat the downturn that is decimating the industry.


There is plenty of glitz and glamour at the show, with big names including Ferrari showing off their latest high-end sports models.


But there is more focus this year on low-cost and green technologies – which many see as the only way to reverse catastrophically plummeting sales.


For the first time, this year the Geneva Motor Show has a section devoted entirely to environmentally friendly technology


General Motors’ European subsidiary Opel has unveiled an innovative hybrid saloon, the Ampera, which will be released to the European market in 2011.


But the company made clear it is still in a desperate fight for survival.


Opel’s Vice President Alain Visser told FRANCE 24 that innovation was the only way to break through the industry’s stagnation.


"We're all going through a serious economic crisis. Demand for cars in Europe is down 20-30%," said Visser. "For us the best response is to come up with strong products."


As GE did in the United States, Opel has asked for an aid package. It wants – and expects to get – 3.3 billion euros from European governments.


The company’s sales volume has plummeted by up to 70% in some areas and is down 30% across the board.


Likewise, Ford has reported a drop of 48% in sales while Toyota’s sales in the US are down 37%.


In Japan, sales are down by one third compared to this time last year.


Like Opel, Toyota is pinning its hopes on green technology to boost its market share this year, with new versions of the Prius hybrid and Verson people carrier on show at Geneva.


The Indian giant Tata Motors, which will release its ultra-cheap Nano model onto the European market in 2010, showed its electric version of the Indica, which will be available in Norway from September.

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