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Renault Group's CEO Luca de Meo, speaks as he stands next to the Renault 5 Electric car displayed on the media day of the 91st Geneva Auto Show, in Geneva, Switzerland, February 26, 2024.

“Honey, I’ve shrunk the Show”: With a wave of his wand, Luca de Meo, Renault’s CEO, got rid of all competition. As the only European automaker represented at the ongoing Geneva International Motor Show – which is taking place in Switzerland until Sunday, March 3 – the French motor brand stands out, drawing considerable attention with its lineup featuring the newly unveiled electric R5 produced in the city of Douai (France), the acclaimed electric Scénic named Car of the Year, an updated Dacia Spring (manufactured in China), and the latest iteration of the Duster, Dacia’s flagship model.

With only five exhibiting groups, the Geneva Motor Show is a shadow of its former self. Amid Renault and Dacia, China’s BYD garnered attention with its unveiling of the U8, an imposing plug-in hybrid 4×4 from its luxury brand Yangwang. The U8, equipped with four motorized wheels, captivated audiences with its remarkable ability to pivot on the spot akin to a tank and perform water rescues in Lake Geneva despite its hefty three-ton weight. Anticipated to retail between €150,000 and €200,000 in Europe, the U8 signals BYD’s ambitious foray into the luxury automotive market.

Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), the leading Chinese manufacturer currently retailing the most models in Europe under its MG brand, debuted its premium IM range in Europe for the first time. Developed in collaboration with online retail giant Alibaba, these vehicles are strategically positioned to rival offerings from Mercedes-Benz. Meanwhile, American start-up Lucid, bolstered by investment from Saudi Arabia, is banking on the launch of a high-end electric SUV in the Swiss market, positioning itself among the contenders in the burgeoning electric vehicle sector.

Unexpectedly, Renault stands alone in introducing a new, budget-friendly electric vehicle designed to address the pressing challenges of climate change. In contrast, Chinese models predominantly feature larger, energy-intensive designs, with a notable focus on hybrid powertrains, particularly plug-in hybrids. A noteworthy revelation at the event is SAIC’s MG3 hybrid, emerging as a direct contender against the Clio in the European market, where non-rechargeable cars of this type are less sought-after by Chinese consumers.

For Renault’s experts, the influx of Chinese manufacturers showcasing their opulent vehicles equipped with advanced technologies such as Lidar (radars that enable semi-autonomous driving) and expansive screens does not preclude the eventual arrival of small, affordable electric cars from China. With BYD already in the process of constructing vessels for delivery and slated to unveil further developments next year, the question arises: what steps should be taken in the interim?

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