More than 30 world premieres will be unveiled during the first press day of this year's Geneva motor show. Small cars will dominate the show as even luxury brands like Audi, Lexus and Aston Martin try to meet growing demand for frugal, fuel efficient cars. Many electric and hybrid models will be displayed - the fruits of government aid to help carmakers cut emissions. And on the corporate front, Toyota and GM Europe will outline their plans to recover from recent difficulties. Meanwhile, Europe's biggest carmaker, Volkswagen, will outline plans to take advantage of trouble elsewhere in the industry as it pursues ambitions to overtake Toyota as the world's largest carmaker by 2018.
Toyota, which is reeling from recalls of more than eight million models because of faulty accelerator or brake pedals, hopes the impact of this costly episode will be softer in Europe than in the US. Toyota is launching its first petrol-electric hybrid to be produced outside Japan or the US. The Auris hybrid model will be built at its Burnaston facility in Derbyshire in the UK, with its hybrid powertrain made at its Deeside engine plant in North Wales. With widespread concerns about Toyota's technology, the model launch comes at an awkward time. "A lot of people thought Toyota was like the pope; they can never fail," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the Centre for Automotive Research in Germany. "Now we see they have not just a problem with the competition, but with their own technology."
General Motors Europe, which produces Opel and Vauxhall in Europe, is facing different challenges after the US parent decided not to sell the division late last year. The company recently outlined a restructuring plan that would rely heavily on 3.3bn euros (£2.9bn) in loan guarantees from European governments. The bulk - 1.5bn euros - would need to come from Germany, though two weeks ago a government task force there said a plan put forward by the firm was "unqualified for government loan guarantees". GM Europe is also meeting much resistance from the German trade unions, which are angry at plans to cut 3,260 manufacturing jobs in the country.