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Luxury lights up Geneva Motor Show

Protective covers sit over Opel automobiles, produced by General Motors Co., during preparations ahead of the 84th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva
Gianluca Colla | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Protective covers sit over Opel automobiles, produced by General Motors Co., during preparations ahead of the 84th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva

The 84th International Motor Show gets underway in Geneva this week against a backdrop of continuing uncertainty for Europe's automakers. But that's not the feeling on the ground where luxury carmakers are rolling out extravagant, turbo-charged vehicles designed to turn heads in one of the world's wealthiest cities.

Life in the fast lane

Lamborghini's new Huracán, the highly anticipated replacement for its best-selling Gallardo, is among cars already generating buzz before the motor show's press day Tuesday. The vehicle boasts a V10 engine that the carmaker claims is more powerful and fuel efficient than its predecessor.

(Read more: GM, Ford extend discount war through March)

Ferrari, meanwhile, is showcasing its first turbo-charged road car in more than 20 years. The V-8 Ferrari California T features a retractable hard top and is capable of going 0-to-62 mph in just 3.6 seconds. UK-based McLaren is giving the Italians a run for their money with the new 650S that clocks the same speed in just 3 seconds.

Splash the cash

For those less inclined to jump in the fast lane but still wanting to splash out a few hundred thousand dollars on a new set of wheels, Rolls-Royce is taking the wraps off the Ghost II, which is expected to feature high-tech interior gadgets and a more streamlined exterior. Bentley is also giving a facelift to the tried and tested, unveiling upgrades for its Continental family of luxury Grand Tourers.

(Read more: Has the iCar arrived? Apple launches in-car app)

The crowd-pleasing stands filling the Geneva Palexpo hall might mirror the host city's reputation for opulence, but they hardly reflect the realities facing the broader industry. European new car registrations rose for the fifth straight month in January to 935,460 units, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) latest report.

Although the trend is encouraging, the total level sold is below pre-crisis highs nearing 1.3 million units. And there are signs pointing to a slowdown in momentum. In a recent note, Barclays analysts projected rather anemic 1.4 percent growth in EU car sales for the full year.Perhaps a little razzle-dazzle is just what the industry needs to shift the focus on better days to come.

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