It was overcast in Paris last Thursday and Friday, but a more threatening cloud hung over the 2008 Paris Mondial De L'Automobile (the Paris Motor Show ), writes Padraic Deane.
An eerie and unnerving feeling of uncertainty prevailed among the high kings of the motor industry. The global credit crunch and varying degrees of turmoil in most of the biggest markets in the world has thrown the short-term plans of the automotive world into turmoil. They simply don't know what way the markets will be, even in a month’s time.
Yet in the short to medium-term, the industry is re-drawing its plans with regard to the future affordability of cars, particularly from C and D segment (small family and family size ) upwards. Manufacturers are speeding up programmes to make their products more competitive in the car market, and both of these are great for motorists, but possibly the most worrying news is that some carmakers are wondering how they will fund future car development - tomorrow's new models.
The large numbers of small and compact new small cars and concepts on display in Paris was the result of the motor industry responding to legislators and the car buying public in relation to environmental concerns and the higher oil prices of the last year. The credit crunch is too new to have been factored in and that has added to the uncertainty. But let's be clear, the short-term misfortune of the car industry can be a ray of sunshine to the car-buying public. Expect to see keen pricing and incentives from next month to buy new cars in January, and right now there isn't a dealership in the country that would not roll out the red carpet and present you with genuine bargains if you are a used-car buyer. They need used-car stocks well reduced if they are to trade profitably in new cars in the crucial January to March period, and the manufacturers are getting behind dealers to achieve this goal. The latest offer comes from Volvo - the first to introduce a 50:50 offer for pre-owned Volvos. However buyers may find the credit crunch interferes with their buying plans. To avail of the bargains, you should talk to your bank and get approval for the finance you need before going shopping. This will give you the strongest possible hand when buying a used car in the next few weeks. It makes you a cash buyer in the eyes of a sales person - and in a buyer’s market, you are king.
Back to Paris, and while the higher echelons of the motor industry were earning their money and showing signs of stress across their foreheads and worry in their eyes, the tired and weary press struggled around among the hundreds of beautiful models (and new cars too ) in search of the news that really matters - what kind of cars can you expect to see coming to car showrooms in the next two or five years. Here is the way I saw it