For more on the London Motor Show 2008, see Slideshow: London Motor Show Highlights.
A tsunami of electric and low-carbon vehicles swamped fast, sporty high-performance cars at this year's London Motor Show. Most manufacturers touted ”green” sub-brands, and great prominence and publicity was given to 10 brands of electric vehicles arrayed in an ”EV Village.”
To quote British car magazine Autocar , ”There's no getting away from it: The predominant colour--and major buzz-word--at this year's London Motor Show was Green.” And buyers care, at least according to the Clean Green Cars Web site: UK sales by manufacturers with the highest average carbon dioxide emissions fell faster from January to June than did those for lower-emitting makes. (For the record, the carmakers with the highest average CO 2 emissions are Porsche, Land Rover, Jeep, Chrysler, and Subaru.)
Previously exiled to Birmingham, England, for many years, the British International Motor Show, as it is officially called, struggles to attract globally significant car launches. The show always does well with the public, in part, however, by including far more than mere cars. Among other attractions, this year's show offered such ”full-throttle entertainment” as a celebrity driving challenge, a ”car washing master class,” racing simulators, bumper cars, an auto career fair, and booths offering a startling mélange of accessories, car insurance, and more.
Whether all this helps or hurts the show is debatable. Much local press commentary followed the decision by some German manufacturers to forgo a show exhibit altogether. And the cars were arrayed through two halls of East London's ExCeL center either spaciously or sparsely, depending on your view.
Easily the show's most important global launch was General Motors' Insignia--to be sold in high volumes as a Vauxhall in the UK, as an Opel elsewhere in Europe, and possibly as a Saturn in the States. The midsize sedan and hatchback offer a drag coefficient of just 0.26, adaptive all-wheel drive, nine different positions for adaptive headlights, and a camera system that reads not only lane markings but road signs too.
Equally key to the British market was the UK launch of Ford's redesigned Fiesta, a supermini that has been a bestseller in the British Isles for more than 30 years. Ford heavily touted the US $23 600 Fiesta ECOnetic model, which it claims is the ”greenest family car” on the market with CO2 emissions of just 98 grams per kilometer. Two days after the show's press preview, Ford announced a quarterly loss of $8.7 billion and a wholesale migration of European car models to North America. Perhaps the Fiesta ECOnetic will make it to the United States--although not before its diesel is further scrubbed, since it doesn't meet U.S. emissions standards at the moment.
Aside from recalibrating a 16-liter TDCi turbocharged diesel engine and fitting a higher final drive ratio, to lower its consumption Ford lowers the suspension, adds aerodynamic rear air deflectors, uses tires with low rolling resistance, runs low-friction oil, and even advises drivers on optimal gear-shifting points.
Norway's 17-year-old Think Global launched its revised City model, on sale in 2009. Unlike the bulk of electric cars now sold in the UK, the City is both crash tested and highway certified--a ”real car,” in other words. The rest are technically ”quadricycles,” similar to neighborhood electric vehicles in North America. They are limited to 50 kilometers per hour (30 miles per hour) and do not have to meet automotive crash-safety standards.