Jean Jennings at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, Day 3
It is never good to arrive at any international auto show without your official credentials in hand. Ah, well.
It was a mob scene in Geneva. Being moderately claustrophobic (can’t watch spelunking on TV), I lurked at the back of the roiling mob and watched Matt Stone from Motor Trend second in line at the credential window marked ENGLISH. I watched him not move for twenty minutes. The next hour just flew by! Note to self: send in 2009 credential request next week.
The parade of cool cars began under the escalator to the second floor, where acclaimed ex-Pininfarina chief designer Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama emerged from seventeen months of obscurity with a limited-edition hybrid roadster of stamped aluminum and dry carbon fiber he’s been working on with MODI, a Japanese company that has been building show cars for the Japan carmakers for some thirty years. The k.o 7 Spider has sixteen lithium-ion batteries backing up a mid-mounted 2.2-liter four-cylinder gas engine from an unnamed Japanese manufacturer. Okuyama prices the k.o 7 at $100,000 and says family and friends have taken the first thirty, with deliveries beginning this October. He’d like to sell ninety-nine a year, beginning in Japan and gradually flowing to the countries that are the easiest to break into, namely England and Switzerland.
Also under the escalator, Nissan had a secret party room that included a GT-R and a scale model of the Nürburgring, which our own executive editor Joseph P. DeMatio walked pensively across, turn by turn. As if that would help his lap times. More importantly, he did a little business in that back room that will pay off in a cool story coming to a future issue of Automobile Magazine. Get your subscription check in the mail, lest you miss the fun.
The irony of Palexpo’s second floor is that it is so brutally hot you don’t want to go there, but it holds the marques you most want to visit, namely Ferrari, Maserati, Bugatti, ItalDesign and Pininfarina, and so on.
God forbid you would actually stick around in this heat for a new product reveal, but there I was, jammed hard against the retaining wall keeping the filthy press away from nervous Bugatti and Hermes execs hovering near the orange-beribboned cover on the tightly swathed Bugatti Hermes Fbg. VW group chairman and notorious terror Dr. Ferdinand Piech had arrived minutes before the press conference, throwing the staff in a tizzy. They squirreled him away in the warren of alcoves hidden behind low walls within the stand, and gave him champagne. A giant digital clock ticked down the minutes to launch, as the crowd built to three deep on three sides. When it got to zero, nothing happened. Piech switched to coffee and, five minutes later, the sound of horse hooves and whinnying started up, the president of Bugatti Franz-Josef Paefgen and the president of Hermes Interior and Design Francois Taverne had some words about the long, rich history between Hermes (the car-loving saddle maker) and Bugatti (the leather-loving car builder), while Piech evaporated mysteriously out the back.
The Hermes contribution is quite tasteful, including bespoke brown painted exterior panels front and rear; custom leather throughout; interior door hardware; stamped Hermes logos on leather, fuel cap, and wheels; a super elegant (and patented) laser-cut H-patterned grille; and a solid aluminum steering wheel
Should you want one of the uber-exclusive, one-built-per-month, Hermes customized Bugattis, it will set you back 1.55 million Euros. Should you prefer instead to just buy a lovely, pleated, silk Hermes scarf, it will cost a mere 500 of your virtually worthless American dollars.