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  1. Luxury
March 19, 2014updated 02 Mar 2016 11:15am

The tribes of the Geneva Motor Show

By Zak Smith

The Geneva Motor Show attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors last week, all keen to get a glimpse at the latest auto-exotica. As a car lover and social observer, my attention was often drawn away from the cars towards their prospective buyers. I found three distinct and unique types of purchaser, each keen in their own way to find the next best toy.

Euro trust-fund kid

The Motor Show, situated in the expo by the airport, was entirely indoors. As a result, all kinds of impressive lighting was used to get the best out of the unique pearlescent paints on display. However on the Ferrari stand, the reflection off all the Hermes belts, Hublot watches and slicked-back hair made it difficult to admire the Bianco Fuji or Rubio Melicazzato paint finishes used on the new California T.

Every fist-pumper and bottle-popper from Jimmyz in Monaco to Billionaire in Sardinia seemed to be congregating by the collection of prancing horses.

Standing in awe as I caressed the rear end of the F12 Berlinetta, I couldn’t help but be wrapped up in their dreams of cruising the back streets of St Tropez in the summer, articulated in that unique semi-American accent reserved for only those fortunate enough to go to international school.

‘Buddy, is the California T cool enough for summer? Or is it to the 458 Spider what a Boxter is to a Carrera 911? I don’t want to look stupid outside VIP Room, you know?’

North London property spivs

This demographic, most familiar to me as a result of my upbringing on the harsh streets of Hampstead, was by far the most amusing.

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They were instantly recognisable, working the aisles of the 8am easyJet from Luton like a Tony Page buffet, swapping tales of Miami at Christmas and fears of interest rate increases over multiple Pret smoked salmon sandwiches.

Each one seemed to be outdoing the other, numbers being bounced around high enough to fix the Greek deficit. Square footage in prime London seemed to be racing up quicker than a sprint from Totteridge to Mayfair in the new Range Rover Sport.

‘If only EasyJet sold the Estates Gazette.’

Later on, I noticed them excitedly surveying the Bentley stand, gusts of wind arising from the overly animated gesticulation. Clearly the £28 million one man purportedly got for his building in Mayfair was a cause for celebration: a new white Bentley Continental GTC was ideal for the drive down to Marbella.


Of all the foreign visitors who made up the VIP sections of the premier marques, Russian seemed to be the most common after Arabic. Rolling around the forecourt like a Soviet-era tank unit flanked either side by cage fighters in suits, it was sometimes hard to distinguish between the client and the muscle – luckily for some brands, background checks are unnecessary when taking a 10 per cent deposit.

Russian purchasers were particularly keen on the aggressive body kits of Brabus, the luxury tuning division of Mercedes, and it was little surprise the armoured 4x4s were popular.

The gargantuan new Mercedes six-wheel G Wagon, recently tested by Richard Hammond on BBC’s Top Gear, was of particular interest, an all-terrain destroyer perfect for gliding over borders in style. Perhaps one V Putin is looking at this model?

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