Car makers emerging from the doldrums at Geneva show

Battered by the slump in the car market following the September 11 attacks and the war in Iraq – manufacturers at the Geneva Auto Show next month are emphasising safer, practical and more environmentally-friendly vehicles.

Battered by the slump in the car market following the September 11 attacks and the war in Iraq – manufacturers at the Geneva Auto Show next month are emphasising safer, practical and more environmentally-friendly vehicles.

Making their debut are the Opel Trixx, a clever small city car, and the Volkswagen Caddy Life, a five-to-seven seater with an extendable loading capacity.

A tiny three-door “car of the future,” the Trixx measures less than 10 feet long, can seat three adults and a child, and boasts an innovative roof with a sliding panel allowing the transport of long objects in vertical position.

The Caddy Life, which resembles a little van, has 81 cubic feet of baggage space.

The Rinspeed Splash, a concept vehicle with a natural gas engine, combines driving, swimming and flying (almost) in one vehicle. The Splash can attain 125 mph on the road, 30 mph on water and 50 mph above water on hydrofoils.

World premieres in Geneva will include the Peugeot 407 – as a sedan or estate car – which replaces the 406 series the new generation of Audi A6s the new Mitsubishi Colt the turbo diesel Kia SUV now with a five-speed automatic box and the hair-mussing BMW soft top series 6, Renault Wind, Chrysler PT Cruiser Cabrio, Mini Cabriolet and the all-aluminium cabriolet Corvette.

The show will also feature Volvo’s Concept Car YCC, developed by an all-women team and the Nissan Quashai, a compact crossover vehicle.

The Swiss exhibition, which runs March 4-14, is unique among the world’s major car shows, taking place in a country with no sizeable auto industry of its own.

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