Salon de L’Automobile de Paris 1946. Photo: Kévin Pourtout

The Paris Motor Show is the hottest event on the car lover’s calendar. The Paris Motor Show or Le Mondial de l’Automobile is a major international auto show held every other year at the Parc des expositions at the Porte de Versailles, launching new models and unveiling radical new concept cars and prototypes. In 2014, the Paris Motor Show welcomed 1,253,513 attendees, making it the most visited auto show in the world.

This exhibition was the first motor show in the world, created in 1898 by automobile industry pioneer, Jules-Albert de Dion, originally as the “International Exhibition of Automobile, Cycling and Sports.” In 1901 the Exhibition took up residence at the Grand Palais and was known for the next 80 years as the Salon de l’Automobile.

Poster for the exposition internationale d’automobiles de 1898. Public Domain
Poster for the exposition internationale d’automobiles de 1898. Public Domain

During the 1930s the Great Depression took its toll on the automobile industry. The number of exhibitors decreased. The show was cancelled during both World Wars and was relaunched in 1946 and included a revolutionary prototype of an electric car.

In 1954 in the post-war economic boom, the exhibition reached one million visitors for the first time. In 1962 the show moved to the Porte de Versailles in the 15th Arrondissement of Paris. Held annually until 1976, the show has since become a biennial event, changing its name from the Salon de l’Automobile to Mondial de l’Automobile in 1988.

Detail of a Porsche 911 car, from the film “Le Départ”. Photo: AngMoKio
Detail of a Porsche 911 car, from the film “Le Départ”. Photo: AngMoKio

As the Paris Motor Show advances in through the 21st century, it changes gears, keeping pace with the desire for increased car safety, alternative energy sources and concern for the environment. Several notable green production and concept cars will make their debuts in the French capital this year. That includes no fewer than 24 electric cars, according to the show’s organizers, including the 2017 Opel Ampera-e.  

Le Mondial de l’Automobile is home ground for major French car makers like Citroën, Peugeot and Renault. However, the show is global in scale with many major car manufacturers showing their wares. Some major car manufactures such as Volvo, Ford and Mazda will be bowing out this year, aiming instead for smaller platforms. Nevertheless, close to 100 car and equipment manufacturers are heading to the event to showcase their models. The Paris Motor Show is still the premier auto show in the world. Several car manufacturers are planning to make the 2016 show the most exciting one yet for new car debuts and experts are predicting a virtual fireworks of novelties.

During the Paris Motor Show there will be a film presentation in Hall No. 8- “Moteur ! L’automobile fait son cinema.” Staged in a recreation of a cinema, this montage of iconic movie cars will feature some of the mythical cars featured on screen such as 007’s Aston Martin, Steven King’s Christine and Bullitt’s Mustang Mach 1. (Watch the teaser clip below.) What seems to be absent from the trailer is the most self-referential French auto show movie, Jacques Tati’s Trafic.

Monsieur Hulot makes his final appearance in this 1971 film Trafic. Tati is once again a man at odds with the technological world. His is the bemused trope of technological anxiety as technology runs amok. The bumbling hero is an automotive inventor travelling to a motor show with a “camping car” so stuffed with gadgets that he can’t remember what they all do. Hulot rationally demonstrates every fanciful feature of the van: seats that unfold from the bumpers, a grill that can actually cook a steak, a horn that sprouts an electric razor, a seat-belt turns into a pair of suspenders.

Naturally, the path of good intentions is paved with modern-age mishaps. The common French term for traffic – meaning the movement of motor vehicle – is la circulation. Whereas the word trafic may be synonymous with this mot, its primary meaning is traffic in the sense of commerce and the exchange of goods. Jacques Tati’s use of the word Trafic for his view of car culture is more than a little satirical.

A still from “Trafic,” Jacques Tati’s 1971 film. Photo: © Columbia Pictures
A still from “Trafic,” Jacques Tati’s 1971 film. Photo: © Columbia Pictures

Back to the future, pun intended, visitors to the Paris Motor Show should expect to see everything from the ever-so useful nip and tuck city cars and leviathan SUVs to the exotic frisson-inducing hypercars and futuristic concept cars. Citroën’s new CXperience concept car is a compelling combination of style and heraldic gloom, looking more like a sigil from The Game of Thrones than a four-door sedan.

The Mondial de l’Automobile is open to the public between October 1st and October 16th, 2016, from 10.00 am to 8.00 pm. Thursday and Friday nights until 10pm. An adult ticket costs €16; an adult plus child is €25. Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, 1 place de la Porte de Versailles, 75015.

Photo Credits: Salon de L’Automobile de Paris 1946 via Kévin Pourtout; Detail of a Porsche 911 car, from the film “Le Départ” by AngMoKio 

Originally published on sister site, BonjourParis.com

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Hazel Smith
After experiencing an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay, Hazel Smith is currently a mature student of art history at the University of Toronto. Blogger and amateur historian, she has also written for the online travel guide PlanetWare.com and for davincidilemma.com. Fascinated with the lives of the Impressionists, Hazel has made pilgrimages to the houses and haunts of the artists while in France. She is continually searching for the perfect art history mystery to solve. She maintains the blogs Smartypants Goes to France and The Clever Pup (http://the-clever-pup.blogspot.ca)

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