The Auto Industry Tries to Cheer Up

So far this year, the major automotive shows have felt a lot like a gathering of pallbearers. If not for bad news from the automakers, there wouldn't any news at all. But the Geneva show is a lot like baseball's spring training; it has always been the launch pad for exciting new concepts that look into the future. That's not to suggest that the dark cloud of recession didn't find its way into Geneva's Palexpo convention center. Before nearly every new car was unveiled, an executive took the stand to talk about how glum sales were, some seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as an oncoming train. So much for the rosy predictions of the past, where if you added up all the sales projections, the result was often higher than the total vehicle output. When the silky covers were snatched off this year, many of the vehicles they revealed were exciting and might head for production. But a few were startling in another way, and hidden from public view might be the best outcome. We even had one from each category from the same vaunted automaker.

Aston Martin took the wraps off three new models: a production Vantage with the big V-12 engine from the more costly DB series; a stunning One-77 for the few (seventy-seven) aristocrat collectors that still possess $1.75-million; and a resurrection of the Lagonda nameplate attached to a big, tall SUV that takes a Parisian runway fashion risk. The look was so unusual, a car magazine editor was compelled to complain about the Lagonda look on his blog.

If your ship is coming in soon, Aston Martin’s One-77 may be just the car for you.

BMW revealed another five-door coupe model, a 5-Series Gran Turismo that's a bit lower and sedan-like than the newly launched X6 sportwagon, while Mercedes-Benz introduced a real coupe, one with two doors as part of its new E-Class family. The svelte new offering looks much more expensive than the CLK line that it replaces.

Apparently, BMW wants to know how many four-door coupes the market can take.