For decades, post war Europe and North America had two different ideas of the motor car as Europeans opted for small Beetles, Minis and Cinquecentos while Americans chose something much, much bigger.
"My generation grew up with huge cars, long Cadillacs, things that looked like aircraft carriers going down the road," explained General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, a 78-year-old industry veteran.
But at the Geneva Motor Show, which opens to the public on Thursday, the two continents were set for a meeting of minds, as "downsizing" gained ground in the global motor industry -- smaller engines, smaller cars and less fuel.
In the Swiss city, Nissan, Mini and Dacia presented shrunken SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicle) or crossovers that claim to mix offroad style with on road sportiness.
GM's European affiliate Opel showed off its Meriva compact people carrier for the first time.
Most manufacturers were also fitting smaller and cleaner running engines even in bigger cars, fitted with turbochargers to boost power.
Fiat, Opel, Ford, Volkswagen, even Mercedes and BMW were on trend, with six or even four cylinders replacing eight -- and two or three replacing four in the smallest cars.
"The minimum acceptable vehicle size is gradually moving downward and where it's particularly evident is with engines," said Lutz.
Audi returned to small cars with the sub four-metre A1 by adding its sporty and luxury twist to parts shared with parent Volkswagen, while Nissan revamped its small Micra with the aim of giving it a global reach.
The Japanese firm wants to sell one million Micras a year across 160 countries by 2013.
Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn called the car "a strategic investment for Nissan's future growth.
"In the past, Nissan had minimal presence in the compact segment because we did not have a specific platform suited for those customers' needs," Ghosn said at the launch.
Unlike the growing range of electric or hybrid powered models touted in Geneva for the coming decade, the downsized option is on sale now, without compromising on cost, range or ease of refuelling in the absence of roadside networks of power sockets, analysts said.
"In the next ten years, the real trend will be downsizing and small cars for big megacities," said Frank Schwope, a motor industry analyst at German bank NordLB.
In Asia, space and tax restrictions in densely populated Japan have traditionally favoured compact vehicles while affordable, practical runabouts are in demand in fast-growing emerging nations.
Colin Couchman, automotive analyst at Global Insight, said official pressure to cut carbon emissions and fuel consumption, with stringent limits looming in Europe or the United States, was also telling.
"Part of it is a hedge by manufacturers. They have to be seen to be doing something," said Couchman.
"Increasingly what they want to try and do is downsize but offer products that work everywhere in the world."
Nissan said its Juke crossover would head to the United States while Mini has similar plans for the Countryman SUV, aiming for largely urban or suburban customers.
For Lutz, while Americans are unlikely to take to the smallest runabouts in big numbers, US habits are clearly shifting towards more compact vehicles and thriftier engines as generations change.
"I would estimate that in another 10 or 15 years there will be very little size difference in the average vehicle in a highly developed wealthy European market like Germany and the United States," added the GM stalwart.
However, one relic of the gas guzzling era might resist, especially in the US heartland, Lutz predicted.
"The American pickup truck is a workhorse and every time someone tries to do a smaller pickup ... they never succeed."