This healthy public attendance contrasts sharply with the record number of exhibitor no shows at Paris, with more than a dozen major manufacturers choosing not to attend this year, including Ford, Volkswagen, Fiat, Mazda, Volvo, Opel, Mini and Alfa Romeo. Some of these (notably Ford, Opel and VW in particular) cheekily took most of the giant advertising hoardings in and around the exhibition site to remind potential new car buyers of their existence, despite their latest products not being visible inside the Mondial de l’Automobile halls.
The poor car manufacturer support for this once must-attend motor show saddens me. Paris is significant as it hosted the world’s very first motor show, held 120 years ago in 1898 at the suggestion of, and started by, industry pioneer, Albert de Dion of de Dion Buton fame; the world’s largest car maker at the turn of the 20th century. The 1898 Paris Salon was staged at the striking Grand Palais, just off the Champs Elysees.
Since then, the Paris exhibition moved to its current Porte de Versailles venue in 1962, and 75 editions on, the event has hosted a number of important car launches over the years, primarily from Citroen with its show-stealing Traction Avant (1934), 2CV (1948) and DS (1955). Other notable Paris debutants have included the original Jaguar XJ6 and Ferrari 365 GTB ‘Daytona’ in 1968, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W116) in 1972, the Ford Sierra, aerodynamic third-generation Audi 100 and Citroen BX in 1982, the Renault Clio (1990) and Twingo (1992), the Smart in 1998, the new ‘BMW’ Mini in 2000, the VW Golf Mk 6 in 2008, and so on.
This year’s Paris debuts included the new Audi A2 and unfortunately-named e-Tron (more on that here in the coming weeks), BMW 3-Series (G20), Mercedes-Benz B-Class and EQC, SEAT Tarraco, a trio of new Toyotas (Corolla, Camry and RAV4), plus Ferrari’s Monza SP1 and SP2; all important models in their own rights, but none likely to re-write the future of automotive history in quite the same way as Citroen’s pre- and post-war Show stars.