THE 68TH Salon International de l'Automobile at Geneva will be a defining moment in Europe's automotive year. Half a dozen automakers will introduce new models of their volume leaders, making it an important business show. Others will introduce inspired concepts that show what the future may be.
Aston Martin will show its new aluminum-bodied V-8 Volante convertible. The Project Vantage supercar concept will make its European debut. The 320kph two-seater was first shown in Detroit in January.
The only Carrozzieri concept to debut at this year's show is Bertone's tiny, sporty pickup truck powered by a BMW six-cylinder engine, called the Pickster. Both Italdesign and Pininfarina will unveil new projects at the Turin show in late April.
BMW will present its new 3 series sedan, which will go on sale across Europe starting in April. The styling is very similar to its predecessor, although the new car is slightly larger. Prices start at DM56,600 ($30,790). The coupe version will follow in about 12 months.
BMW will also show its M5 sports version of the 5 series. The car is powered by a V-8 that delivers 408hp, and 0-100kph acceleration in 5.4 seconds.
The Pronto Cruizer is Chrysler's first concept for a European auto show in 10 years. The three-door coupe has an exaggerated grille and fenders, and 1940s-style running boards that flow smoothly into the fenders. The retro-styled vehicle has the same 2642mm wheelbase as Chrysler's lower-medium Neon.
The Xsara wagon will make its first appearance. It goes on sale in France this month and in Germany and Italy in April. Sales in the UK and Spain start in May. Prices start at FF91,000 ($15,100). The wagon is 190mm longer than the hatchback. There is a choice of three trim levels and seven engines: four gasoline, two diesels and an LPG.
A compact minivan based on the Xsara platform is likely to be shown at the Paris auto show in October.
Daewoo will give a name to its M100 city car being developed for launch in Europe in late summer. Specifications will also be released. A pre-production version will be shown.
Daihatsu will show the production version of the NCX supermini-sized minivan concept unveiled at Frankfurt last September. Power comes from a 1.0-liter, three cylinder engine. Sales of the five-door hatchback start later this year.
The updated 456GT, called the 456M, gets its debut. Ferrari said that the new F1-style gear command on the F355 now accounts for 70 percent of orders.
Fiat has decided not to show its Cinquecento replacement, the Seicento, at Geneva. The car will debut at the Turin show that opens on 22 April, but press introductions begin as previously planned on 12 March.
At Turin, its home show, the Seicento unveiling will be Fiat's major event.
Two hatchback versions of the Escort replacement will be on show. A Ford insider described them as being 'very close to the production version' of the Escort that will go on sale at the end of the year, but the cars will be kept at arm's length from visitors.
Ford sources said the car's name would be announced Monday in Geneva. Ford says it will be the most spacious car in its class.
Ford will also show the first Ford-badged Cougar. The Cougar presented at Detroit in January was badged Mercury, a second Ford sales channel in North America.
The fuel-efficient P2000 concept also makes its European debut.
Gordon Jamieson and Ken Rogers
General Motors will show another concept version of the Zafira small minivan due in 1999. The new one will be more sophisticated than the static version presented at Frankfurt in September. It will demonstrate how the three rows of seats can be laid flat or removed. The vehicle seats seven.
GM will also show a Sintra minivan powered by a fuel cell and a version of the 3EVI electric car shown in Detroit in January.
The main focus of the Opel stand will be the new Astra that debuted at Frankfurt. The Astra will go on sale in Germany on 20 March.
Diana T. Kurylko
The French coachbuilder will show a new version of its Intruder sport-utility concept, first shown in Paris in October 1996. It includes a patented hard-roof folding system which Heuliez has already applied to the Peugeot's Two-Oh-Heart coupe-convertible prototype that will debut in Geneva.
Hyundai's first European design, the Euro One, is a two-seater prototype, powered by an enhanced version of the 2.0-liter Lantra engine. Hyundai says it will build the car if it proves popular.
Jaguar will unveil high-performance coupe and convertible versions of its XK8 sports car. The two XKRs are powered by 4.0-liter V-8s tuned to 370hp, the same as in the XJR sedan.
The XKRs go on sale in May.
Kia will show its new Mentor, already on sale in Japan. A version was shown at Frankfurt in October. The Mentor will be sold in Europe beginning in summer as a hatchback and sedan, with a choice of 1.5- or 1.8-liter engines.
The all-new MX-5 roadster will debut in Europe. It will go on sale starting in mid-April with 1.6- and 1.8-liter engines.
The MV-X minivan concept shown in Tokyo last autumn will be seen in Europe for the first time.
Mazda will show a version of its tiny Demio city car with a 'more European look.' The Demio has been available in Japan for 18 months and will be launched in Europe later this year.
Micro Compact Car
Micro Compact Car will present the modified Smart car. Changes were made to the mini after stability problems were discovered last autumn. The sales start was delayed for seven months until October.
The new Smart has a wider track and lower center of gravity. The front axle is widened by 16mm to 1286mm. The rear track is extended by 87mm to 1354mm.
The front end is lowered by 20mm and the rear by 15mm.
A higher negative wheel camber in the rear and increased anti-roll damping will also contribute to improved stability.
'In October our customers will find a car that has excellent active as well as passive security,' said Lars Brorsen, managing director of Micro Compact Car. 'The decision of the board to delay the launch was absolutely right and gave us the time to improve the production start in France as well as adapt the chassis.'
Three new Mercedes-Benz cars will be introduced.
The Mercedes-Benz CLK Convertible, which seats four, will be on sale in Europe in June.
The CLK 430, a V-8 version of the CLK, receives its European premiere. It will also go on sale in June.
An E-class tuned by AMG, the E55 AMG T-Modell, has 354hp and a torque of 530 Nm.
The Spacestar gets its world debut. The compact minivan is a design prototype for a five-seat car that will be built at the Mitsubishi-Volvo NedCar plant at Born, the Netherlands.
The minivan is 4030mm long, 1695mm wide and 1515mm high, a lower-medium vehicle ready to compete with the Renault Megane Scenic.
It will be offered with two engines, a 1.8-liter GDI and a 1.3-liter SOHC engine. A navigation system will be standard.
Sales will start in the autumn. Pilot production has started at NedCar.
Mitsubishi is also showing its Galloper off-roader, a revised version of the Pajero. Prices are expected to start at around DM35,000 ($19,240).
Nissan will show its facelifted Micra, a new Primera station wagon for Europe and a new pickup.
The Micra gets a more aggressive look. The interior also has been revamped and given a standard driver's airbag. The passenger-side bag is optional.
The new Primera station wagon is designed and built at Nissan's factory in Sunderland, UK. It will go on sale on 1 May. The station wagon was designed by Stephane Schwarz, an ex-Pininfarina designer.
The replacement for Nissan's Pickup will come in three body styles and with two engines, a 2.5-liter turbo and normally aspirated diesel. Nissan will also show the Terrano II with an automatic four-speed transmission. The sport-utility will be offered in a new, long-wheelbase form and with a 2.7-liter turbodiesel engine. The Hypermini electric concept vehicle shown at the Tokyo auto show last autumn will make its European debut.
Diana T. Kurylko
The Two-Oh-Heart coupe-convertible prototype provides a foretaste of the 207 supermini that will debut at Paris in October. The 2+2 is powered by 1.4-and 1.6-liter gasoline engines. Such a sporty version of the 207 is likely to be produced. It would be priced around FF100,000 ($16,600) and go on sale starting in early 2000.
PSA will show its new HDI common-rail, direct-injection diesel engine. It will equip the Peugeot 406 and Citroen Xantia sedans later this year. PSA says the HDI cuts fuel consumption by 20 percent.
The convertible version of the new 911 will have its world premiere. Sales start in the USA on 18 April. Prices start at DM155,000 ($85,210) when the convertible goes on sale in Germany on 9 May.
Renault will show:
A radical concept roadster, the Zo
The new Clio, which goes on sale this month in France, Spain and Italy
The Kangoo Pampa, a passenger car derivative of the Kangoo commercial van.
The Zo concept is powered by a prototype direct-injection, four-cylinder gasoline engine. The on-/off-road vehicle has an electrohydraulic system that lifts the body by 130mm for driving off-road.
Basic price for the second-generation Clio will be FF63,900 ($10,650) for the three-door, 1.2-liter version. Standard equipment includes twin airbags and power steering.
The Pampa has reinforced axles, specific suspension bars and shock absorbers, light alloy wheels and a raised body.
The Silver Seraph, the first all-new Rolls-Royce sedan since 1980, gets its debut. Sales begin just after Geneva. Prices start at £155,000 ($250,000) in the UK. The Silver Seraph is powered by a 5.4-liter V-12 making 322hp built by BMW.
The Bentley Arnage, successor to the Bentley Turbo RT, will be introduced on 26 April at Le Mans, France.
The new Felicia gets its world premiere. The car is 28mm longer than its predecessor and has a new front end that resembles the Octavia. Interior changes include a new steering wheel.
The new Felicia will sell for about 2.9 percent, or $290, more than the old model, which will cease production soon. Consumers have a choice of 1.3- and 1.6-liter gasoline and 1.9-liter diesel engines.
The Felicia goes on sale in the Czech Republic and Germany starting in April. The original Felicia was the first car developed after VW bought Skoda. The Octavia Combi station wagon also debuts, and will go on sale starting in May.
Skoda plans to build 410,000 cars this year, 22 percent more than in 1997.
The Grand Vitara will debut in Europe. It was unveiled in Tokyo last autumn as the Escudo. European sales begin 23 March.
The new five-door offers a greater choice of engines than its predecessor. Suzuki sources say it will be priced aggressively in Europe at around $25,670.
The Indian car and truck manufacturer will show its Safari sport-utility and a prototype of its unnamed supermini. Both will be sold in Europe. Tata plans to put the Safari on sale later this year - probably in France, Italy and Germany - and the supermini in 1999.
Both debuted at the New Delhi auto show in January.
The 4800mm-long, seven-seat Safari has just gone into production. It is powered by a 2.0-liter, 90hp turbodiesel or 2.0-liter, 137hp gasoline engine.
The five-door supermini hatchback will enter production later this year. See Page 17.
Toyota will show the production version of its Funtime supermini. The car resembles the Funtime concept model shown at the Frankfurt auto show last autumn, which was derived from the production platform. The supermini will be produced at Toyota's new plant in Valenciennes, France.
Toyota will also show at a press event a prototype for a small Lexus luxury sedan. It will not be on the stand.
The prototype is all new. Toyota has scrapped the NC250 small Lexus concept car shown at the Tokyo show last autumn. The NC250 was criticized for dull styling.
Diana T. Kurylko
The Finnish specialty-car assembler will show a five-door sport-utility convertible based on Honda's CRV. The concept vehicle has a fully automatic power top. Valmet assembles Porsche Boxsters and Saab 900 convertibles.
Volkswagen will show a new W-12-powered roadster, styled by Italdesign. The open mononoque layout is different from the W-12 sports car study revealed at the Tokyo auto show last autumn. That two-seater, done in a Lamborghini-like way, was also by Italdesign.
The 5.6-liter, 420hp W-12 engine is centrally mounted in the new concept car. The engine is the center of VW's plans for a car that would compete with the Mercedes S class, but officials will not say whether anything about the concept car resembles anything about the production model.
VW is keeping alive its Golf III platform with a Golf convertible. This platform was adapted to include styling elements of the new Golf IV, and offers the same engines.
The convertible will be built by Karmann.