The Brussels Autoshow, or Salon de l’automobile Bruxelles, is not one of the major European autoshows, it lacks the glamour of Geneva, the supercar presence of Paris and the sheer magnitude of Frankfurt, but it offers a totally different atmosphere than those other shows. At most autoshows, the brands are mainly focused on introducing and displaying their newest models and revealing jawdropping concept cars which should pave the way for future design, whereas the Salon is a buyer’s show, approximately 30% of all new cars sold annually in Belgium, are either bought or ordered on the show floor. During the entire month of January, Belgium is covered in advertising posters and billboards promising the best “Salon deals” and the highest discounts, up to 35% off.
As a result, the show floor is packed with the most popular models, in different colors, trim levels and interior finishes, to give the potential buyer the possibility to compare and configure his or her vehicle of choice. The only true world premiere was the new generation Nissan Qashqai crossover, a vehicle that has large shoes to fill, replacing one of Europe’s top-10 best selling cars and the most popular Japanese car in this continent ever in terms of sales ranking and market share. The outgoing Qashqai was sometimes referred to as Nissan Cashcow, and that is not far from the truth.
Another noteworthy difference in Brussels this year are the models displaying the cars. Autoshows are famous for the beautiful girls standing next to the vehicles and sometimes attracting more attention from the male crowd than the car itself. But after some incidents at the Salon last year, when some men couldn’t resist the temptation of “only look, but don’t touch”, the Belgian minister of Equal Opportunities has requested the show organizer to ask the automakers to show “sexy and stylish models without revealing too much skin.” Naturally, this is a noble endeavor, but one has to admit it does take away some of the showbizz. Or maybe some PR interns only remembered the last five words of the sentence….
Back to the cars: my personal awards for the show’s most beautiful car and the show’s most hideous car go to the same automaker: the honors are for the Alfa Romeo 4C and the Fiat 500L Living. The former is a true Italian beauty with audacious curves, especially around the hips, while the latter has pushed far beyond the boundaries of how far the Fiat 500 concept can be stretched. Literally.
And the award for most wrongfully named car goes to the Volkswagen Golf Sportsvan, as the successor to the Golf Plus has been given a cooler, hipper name in order to better connect with its target audience of elderly people…
As bright colors seemed to abound, yellow is set to become the new silver for sportscars, with Renault trying to connect the Megane RS and the crazy Twizy F1 with the likes of Corvette C7, Ferrari 458 Italia Speciale and , but then Jaguar showed everyone who’s the trendsetter by showing a 1960s E-type, also in bright yellow. It is supposed to show the resemblances between the 50-year old icon and its virtual successor, the F-type coupe, but it had the reverse effect. The E-type was the one grabbing everyone’s attention, turning the jawdroppingly stunning and utterly impressive F-type into a wallflower. A piece of decorum. Someone will be in trouble for thinking this was a great idea to bank upon Jaguar’s great heritage.
Mini always has one of the coolest stands of any autoshow, and besides the European premiere of the new Mini, the Cooper S also in bright yellow, visitors could have their picture taken, replicating the famous Beatles album cover of Abbey Road, with a handful of new Minis taking the place of the original cars. Mini being Mini, the camera to take the picture was “hidden” inside a speed camera.
Ford had a big stand at the show as well, despite losing 35% of annual Belgian sales in two years time, after deciding to close their factory in the country and moving production of the Mondeo, Galaxy and S-Max to Spain. They did economize on the display, which was enhanced by their neighbor Renault, who went all out on their display, hanging 150 lighted balls from the ceiling, which would not only change color every few seconds, but also move up and down in sequence, giving the effect of waves on the ceiling. Ford’s most notable cars on display where the Ecosport small crossover, which is already a hit in India and South America and will compete head on with the hugely successful Dacia Duster, and the Focus Electric and .
BMW showed its two faces, with the i3 and i8 electric cars in one corner and the M3 sports sedan and M4 sports coupe in the other corner. And in between, they had the European premiere of the 2-series coupe and 4-series convertible. To underscore the popularity of Volvo in The Netherlands, while I was on the BMW stand, I heard a Dutch woman who was walking towards the 3-series Touring ask her partner: “Is this the V60 fighter from BMW? What’s it called, the BMW 316? It looks alright. Do they have a competitor to the XC60 as well?”. BMW obviously still has some marketing to do in some parts of the world….
Here is a photo report of other notable cars on display at the Salon de l’automobile Bruxelles, click on the photo to enlarge.