Matt Greenop on motoring

Matt Greenop is editor of Driven magazine

Matt Greenop: On the big boys' radar

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All new Maserati Alfieri shines under the Geneva spotlight.
All new Maserati Alfieri shines under the Geneva spotlight.

Doomsayers, still suffering from the GFC hangover, have been less than complimentary about the future of the European car industry.

This seems to have changed, if the hundreds of vehicles on display at this week's Geneva Motor Show are anything to go by. Stretching from big players Ford, Mercedes, BMW and Chrysler all the way to bizarre fringe players such as Koenigsegg and Gumpert, there is an air of optimism.

This is heartening - model line-ups are increasing; joint ventures and mergers are coming to fruition, rendered in sheet metal; and, most importantly, New Zealand matters.

We've long been considered a "bonus state" of Australia by manufacturers, but there's a new-found focus on ensuring New Zealand buyers get what they want.

In many cases we're getting cars ahead of our transtasman cousins.

On top of that, our roads prove ideal for testing vehicles pre-production.

Barely a week goes by without a tip-off from the deep south of strange left-hand-drive machines sneaking around the high country.

Talking with CEOs and well-suited execs from major European manufacturers, the overwhelming message is New Zealand might be a little collection of dots at the bottom of the map, but we're important to them.

Citroen boss Frederic Banzet surprised me with his knowledge of our industry and his enthusiasm for ensuring Kiwis get the message Citroen considers New Zealand an important market. He was quick to underline that there has been a long-time disconnect between the quirky French brand and our market, and that he is focused on upping the company's image - and sales - by giving us a good selection of vehicles that suit our market.

Mike Manley, head of Chrysler, was open in how he saw the NZ and Australian car markets. Big cars are dying, right-hand-drive markets are small and there are impediments to us getting niche vehicles, such as the Dodge Challenger or Charger, the main one being cost. But global machines, such as today's Renegade cover "car" are vital and Manley said that getting these products on our roads is hugely important to each of the brands he runs.

What cars would you love to see on New Zealand roads? Let us know below or at facebook.com/DrivenNZ

- NZ Herald

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