Opel to produce Astra SUV wagon
Opel unveiled the fourth variation of the new Astra, the station wagon. Three- and five-door hatchbacks and the Zafira compact minivan debuted at Frankfurt in September. In Tokyo, the station wagon was previewed in the form of a special version called the City Trekker Concept.
The City Trekker features increased ground clearance, 430mm wheels, six-speed gearbox with special low-ratio first gear and electronic traction control with throttle and brake control. 'The CTC is more than a pure show concept,' said Peter Hanenberger, head of product development at General Motors International Operations. 'We will closely evaluate reaction because we think such a vehicle has a strong potential to enter production.' The new Astra hatchback will go on sale in the first quarter of 1998, followed soon after by the station wagon. The Zafira will arrive in late 1998. The Bertone-built cabriolet and coupe will replace the Calibra in 1999.
Mitsubishi's Space Runner, Wagon
Mitsubishi unveiled the Space Runner and Space Wagon successors. They will arrive in Europe in the second half of 1998.
The new Space Runner, called RVR in Japan, has grown to 4280mm long and 1690mm wide. It retains the single sliding door for rear passengers. The small multi-purpose vehicle is powered by a four-cylinder, 1.8-liter GDI engine now offered on the Carisma.
The Space Wagon successor, called Chariot Grandis in Japan, is also bigger. At 4850mm long and 1775mm wide it is close to the size of full-size minivans like the Renault Espace. But it retains four traditional doors plus the tailgate. The standard engine is the 165ps, four-cylinder, 2.4-liter GDI.
Mercedes' ghostly stand
Mercedes-Benz's stand was marked by wooden poles with words of welcome written down them in various languages.
To Japanese eyes, the poles resembled the bare-wooden slats down which the Buddhist names of a deceased person are written.
Those slats are kept at a family's grave plot, then later gathered during Buddhist holy days and burned, with the smoke rising to heaven. One Japanese wondered if Mercedes knew that its stand looked like a cemetery.
James B. Treece
Ferdinand Piech asked Fabrizio Giugiaro to design Volkswagen's W-12 concept after seeing the Scighera concept car Italdesign showed at the Geneva auto show in March. 'The VW W-12 concept was a real challenge for us,' said Giugiaro, 32, son of Italdesign co-founder Giorgetto Giugiaro. 'We showed the first sketches to VW at the end of April. The full-size styling model was completed in late July and the running prototype was shipped to Wolfsburg just one week before the Tokyo show.' Piech followed the project closely. He gave direct input on overall dimensions, the scissors doors and VW design cues like the big rear lamps. 'I had no vacation this summer,' said Giugiaro. 'Mr. Piech came very often to Italdesign to closely follow every step of the project development.'
Santana and Vitara successors
Suzuki unveiled the Santana and Vitara successors. They will arrive in Europe in the second half of 1998 and in 1999 respectively. The Santana replacement, called Jimny in Japan, was shown only as a hardtop.
Mazda to offer Demio in Europe
Mazda importers in Europe say they expect to receive the new Demio supermini by the end of the year. 'The Demio was conceived for Japan only, where it is a smash success,' said Martin Leach, Mazda managing director in charge of product planning and design.
'Exports to Europe were not planned, but we are now considering it.' The Demio would be positioned in Europe between the Ford Fiesta-based 121 and the 323/Lantis. Leach denied speculation that the 323/Lantis successor could be derived from next year's new Ford Escort.
'The C-segment car,' he said, 'will remain an original Mazda product built in Japan.'
BMW says Japan market is open
BMW Japan Chairman Lueder Paysen says US auto companies should stop complaining about poor sales in Japan.
'Though a lot of Americans say it is closed, the Japanese market is completely open,' said Paysen, who is also responsible for several developing markets around the world.
BMW sales in Japan rose 3.9 percent to 27,160 in the first nine months of 1997. 'Our long-term goal is to sell 60,000 cars in Japan,' said Paysen.
In Korea, BMW established a subsidiary two years ago and now sells 1,800 cars a year, far ahead of Mercedes. 'You can't complain about a closed market, you've got to go open it yourself,' said Paysen. 'The Korean market is as closed as the Japanese market was 15 years ago.'