The difficulty of naming new cars in a pan-European and global market was painfully obvious at the 68th Salon del l'Automobile.
Ford spent $300,000 to buy the Focus name in Italy from a distributor who had used it on a Mitsubishi model. Other names considered for the Ford Focus included Jazz, Fusion, Future or Icon with a C or K, said Ian McAllister, who heads Ford of Britain.
Toyota made up the name Yaris for its supermini.
A Rolls-Royce marketing team spent 18 months deliberating over the name for its new super-luxury car. They did all the usual trademark searches, then checked with a divinity professor at Oxford University to be sure an angel was not a devil in some languages.
Mitsubishi left the space out of Spacestar because Daimler-Benz has the Star trademark.
Tata might give its little car an alphanumeric name in Europe, but it wants a name for India.
Fiat Auto Managing Director Roberto Testore said Alfa has already collected 84,000 orders for the new 156, enough to cover the entire first year of production from its debut in November 1997. The 156 will be sold in 60 countries instead of 37, as first planned. In January and February, the 156 outsold the cheaper Fiat Marea in Italy.
Pilot production of the Audi TT roadster has begun at Audi's engine plant in Gyor, Hungary.
Ulrich Hackenberg, chief of Audi's advance development, said the company isn't worried about the quality of work at the plant, which until now has been an engine plant. 'That is not a difficulty,' he said. The tricky part is delivering painted bodies in white from Ingolstadt to Gyor. 'You have to be careful transporting them.'
The Audi A6 Avant goes on sale this week. Prices start at DM51,600 ($28,200).
'Bertone has styled almost every type of vehicle. We were missing the pickup, which is the best-selling vehicle in the USA, and we closed this gap with the Pickster,' said Managing Director Paolo Caccamo.
The Pickster is reminiscent of cars like the Chevrolet El Camino and the 'utes' of Australia. Those cars look like a passenger car back to the B-pillar, but they have a truck bed.
The name combines pickup and speedster. Powered by a 3.2-liter, 320hp, BMW six-cylinder engine, the Pickster is a two-seater, but another two passengers can be housed in the folding seat hidden in the cargo area.
To make the loading operation easier, both the huge rear wing and the small deck lid slide down.
The Pickster is 4830mm long and 1970mm wide, sitting on a 3050mm wheelbase.
Bertone designed and will build the new Opel Astra coupe and convertible, briefly previewed at the Geneva show on Opel's stand.
Opel will launch the new Astra coupe in August 1999. The cabriolet will follow in nine to 12 months. Until the new Astra cabriolet arrives, Bertone will continue to produce the current Astra cabriolet. At full capacity, expected to be reached in 2001, Bertone will make 50,000 units a year of the two new Astra derivatives.
BMW kept the basic design cues of its 8-year-old 3 series, but made it look more like the bigger 5 series. The new 3 series is slightly bigger, wider and roomier, and it has a host of high-tech features previously available only on the 5 and 7 series. (See Page 6.)
The new M5 also made its debut. The 'sports car in sheep's clothing' has a 5.0-liter V-8 engine, but the only styling cues to give it away are a different front air dam, light alloy wheels with bigger tires and four tailpipes.
Diana T. Kurylko
Citroen aims to raise its share of the western European car market by 20 percent this year. It wants a 5 percent share. Citroen Brand Director Claude Satinet said the carmaker had achieved this level in January and February.
Sales were up 22 percent in Germany, and 25 percent in France, Italy and Spain. They were down 9 percent in the UK.
The surge is due mainly to the introduction of the lower-medium Xsara last September.
Citroen's brand image is likely to change. 'I would like Citroen to have an exterior style more attractive, more immediately appealing, less serious than during recent years,' said Satinet.
Chrysler Corp. is serious about acquiring another automaker, says Chairman Robert Eaton.
'I've changed,' said Eaton, who for several years steadfastly opposed the idea of Chrysler expanding by acquisition. Why? 'The world's changed.'
Daewoo presented its Matiz mini, which was introduced last autumn in Frankfurt as the d'Arts city car concept. Stefan Spruck, Daewoo's marketing director in Germany, said the Matiz would arrive there in June, with a sales goal of 3,000 to 5,000 units this year.
Andres Unger Salazar
Daihatsu showed the Sirion five-door hatchback, its Charade-replacement. The Sirion will arrive in Europe in the second half of 1998. It has a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine.
Daihatsu has developed a V-shaped crush design for the Sirion. The front frame is designed to bend groundward into a V shape during a frontal collision.
This causes the engine mounting on the center of the V to pull the engine and transmission unit downward, so it does not intrude into the passenger space.
De Tomaso Modena SpA said it sold its international distribution rights to San Francisco-based British Motor Car Distributors.
De Tomaso will retain distribution rights for Italy and the UK. British Motor Car created a new subsidiary, called De Tomaso Automobiles Ltd., which expects to sell 50 Guaras in 1998.
A second model, based on the 1996 Bigua spider concept, will reappear in 1999 with the name Mangusta.
Ferrari unveiled the 456M, the M meaning modified.
The 456M offers improved aerodynamics, including new front and rear bumpers and a brand new carbon fiber engine hood. Suspensions were revised and the sophisticated traction control system of the 550 Maranello was added. The 456M goes on sale in April.
Paolo Marinsek was introduced as the Ferrari SpA managing director. Marinsek, 47, was formerly managing director of Comau, the Fiat group robot subsidiary. He has also run Fiat Auto Poland and the Termoli plant making FIRE engines.
Marinsek will report directly to President Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. Marinsek is responsible for production car activities of both Ferrari and Maserati.
Two persons report directly to Montezemolo and not to Marinsek: Jean Todt, responsible for the F1 racing team, and Antonio Ghini, director of communications.
Fiat abandoned plans to show the Seicento, but kept to its scheduled introduction to the press in Turin just after Geneva press days.
The Seicento was held back so it could be the star at the Turin auto show on 24 April.
Fiat delayed the addition of the 1.9-liter JTD common-rail, direct-injection turbodiesel engine on the Bravo and Brava. Originally planned for late spring, this introduction has been postponed because Bosch's entire common-rail injection system capacity is currently covered by the Alfa Romeo 156 and Mercedes C-class.
The Fiat Multipla multi-purpose vehicle will debut at the Turin show in April, said Nevio de Giusto, Fiat's platform director.
'We will reveal the definitive production version which will go on sale in November,' he said. The Multipla will feature an innovative new platform comprising a space frame plus the front end of the current Bravo/Brava. Annual production is targeted at 40,000.
Wim Oude Weernink
Ford showed the Focus, the replacement for the Escort.
The Focus takes Ford's New Edge design to a new extreme. Focus has improved interior room. It is larger than the Escort but it weighs no more and fuel economy is 25 percent better.
The Focus goes on sale in Europe in October in three-, four-, five-door and station wagon models. A fifth version, a small minivan to compete with the Renault Scenic and Opel Zafira, is due in 2001.
Diana T. Kurylko
Ford will eliminate some jobs when it combines its import and distribution networks in Finland, Norway and Sweden, perhaps by the end of the year. The three national companies will have a number of joint departments when they are melded together. Parts are already distributed from a single warehouse in Sweden. Ford's Norwegian importer is a subsidiary of Ford's Danish importer.
Heuliez will unveil a four-door electric car at the Paris show. The three-box Peugeot 106 supermini, called the Republic, will be aimed at executive customers, particularly in the government where there may be a demand for an environment-friendly company car.
The Republic will have such luxury items as leather seats and tinted glass.
Heuliez makes electric versions of the Peugeot 106 and Citroen Saxo hatchbacks.
Honda will sell three new small cars in Europe. They will be imported.
The J-BX will arrive in 1999. It shares a platform with the two-year-old Japanese Logo, which measures just 3750mm.
Prices will start at £9,000 ($14,780), said Kazue Ito, managing director of Honda Motor Europe.
Two other concepts will become models on the market.
Honda plans to sell 300,000 units in Europe by 2000, and 150,000 in 1999. The carmaker sold 110,000 units here last year.
Andres Unger Salazar
The Euro 1, Hyundai's first concept car from its European design studio in Frankfurt, was inspired by the glamour of the 1950s sports racers, says its designer.
The racing car feel 'is intended to put the emotion back into driving,' said David Cutcliffe, head designer.
The Euro 1 is fitted with a six-speed clutchless transmission. Gears are changed by means of a twist grip integrated into the steering wheel.
The body is made of a combination of glass epoxy and honeycomb carbon sandwich.
As in modern competition cars, the seats are integrated into the bodywork.
Cutcliffe believes the Euro 1 will help change the image of Hyundai.
'If you asked people what they thought of Hyundai before the Euro 1, they would have said value cars,' said Cutcliffe. 'They can't say that any more.'
A roadster version of Volks-wagen's W-12 concept coupe was on the VW stand, and the coupe displayed last October at the Tokyo show was at Italdesign's stand.
Both cars were subcontracted directly from Ferdinand Piech to Fabrizio Giugiaro.
Piech said VW is considering making a limited run of the W-12 sportscars, from 300 to 500 units per year, with a ratio of two coupes to every roadster. Price range was said by Piech to be DM300,000-DM500,000 ($160,000-280,000).
They would probably be made by Italdesign, although the company has not manufactured cars since building 456 units of the BMW M1 in 1978-80.
Italdesign will celebrate its 30th anniversary at the Turin show in April with a number of special events.
Two high-performance versions of the XK8 in coupe and convertible versions debuted, featuring 4.0-liter V-8 supercharged engines that put out 370hp.
To set the cars apart from their stablemates, Jaguar gave them bright, mesh air-intake grilles, new alloy wheels and red badges.
Diana T. Kurylko
Kia plans a $16.4 million European marketing campaign. Kia's export prices will be cut by 5-10 percent.
Kia held European premieres for its Shuma and a Carnival minivan.
Franz-Josef Paefgen, Audi chairman, was seen at the Geneva show on 3 March in close conversation with Vittorio Di Capua, managing director of Lamborghini. Officially the Paefgen visit to the Lamborghini stand was 'pure courtesy,' but it fueled rumors of a forthcoming technical cooperation on Lamborghini's small car, the L140 project. Two years ago in Geneva, Audi confirmed its technical cooperation on the Isotta Fraschini project, but that car died shortly after the show due to financial difficulties.
Lamborghini showed the rear-drive Diablo Roadster, which costs 12 percent less than the 4WD version.
Lamborghini unveiled its research prototype for a light-weight cross-country bicycle. Lamborghini said that in 1997 sales of high-tech bicycles with automotive brands totaled 35,000 units at an average price of L6 million ($3,333).
Matra has several possible projects to fill its factory after production of the current Espace minivan ceases in about 2002.
Both Renault and Matra say they are talking about a project together, and both say that Matra is talking with other automakers.
Jean-Louis Caussin, Matra Automobile general manager, would not comment on reports that Renault is talking with Matra about a future luxury vehicle.
Matra said it may also investigate new segments such as electric cars.
'We have studied a number of innovative projects,' said Caussin. 'Two of them have a good chance to come off.'
Maserati unveiled the Quattroporte Evoluzione, an updated and more refined version of its flagship.
Offered with V-6 and V-8 turbo engines, the Quattroporte Evoluzione lost some tacky details such as the gold-looking clock in the fascia and the Maserati logo on the wooden steering wheel. Production in 1998 is expected to be around 750 units.
The limited-edition Ghibli Evoluzione was unveiled. The production run will be about 200 units. Beginning in September, Maserati will sell its new coupe, called the Mistral.
The exterior was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign and the interior by Enrico Fumia of Fiat styling center. Sales of the new coupe are expected to reach about 2,500 units a year early in the next decade.
Maserati, now under Ferrari management control, plans to re-enter the US market in the year 2000 with a spider version of the Mistral. The spider, on a shortened wheelbase, will be launched in Europe in late 1999.
US sales are crucial to Ferrari's plan for Maserati to sell over 6,000 units a year by 2003 (about 2,500 units of the new coupe, close to 2,000 spiders and 2,000 Quattroportes).
Maserati's relaunch has not really started. In 1997, sales were 701 units. The plan for 1998 is to build 1,250 units - approximately 750 units of the Quattroporte Evoluzione, 200 Ghibli Evoluzione, and 300 units of the new 2+2 coupe.
For now Mazda will stick to its present 323 platform, which was completely renewed only a year ago, rather than use the same-size Ford platform under the new Focus. 'This new platform, of course, had been decided on before we came to take the lead,' said Jacques Nasser, Ford Automotive Operations chief executive.
Daimler-Benz has hired tennis pro Boris Becker for five years for about DM7 million ($3.8 million). Becker now appears in two-page A-class newspaper ads across Germany.
JP Morgan bank is working up a Daimler-Benz offer for Rolls-Royce.
Officially, Chairman Juergen Schrempp says, 'We do not intend to take over Rolls-Royce.' But board member Juergen Hubbert says with a wink, 'We have to watch that it doesn't get too cheap for the others.'
The CLK convertible was priced at DM58,200 ($31,800). It will go on sale in June. The E55AMG, already on sale, is priced at DM153,525 ($84,000).
About 80 wealthy customers in the USA have looked over the ultra luxury Maybach concept car in a clinic. 'I don't know where we got the addresses,' said Joachim Schmidt, director of sales for Mercedes-Benz, 'but I recognized some of the names.'
Daimler-Benz will open a design studio in Italy in 1999.
The new styling center will be located between Turin and Milan, said Juergen Hubbert, board member in charge of passenger cars.
He said the studio would be about the same size as Mercedes' California design center in the USA.
Micro Compact Car
Two versions of the Smart will be added in 1999.
The range will begin this autumn with cars called Smart Pure and Smart Pulse. The higher-trim Smart Passion arrives next year, along with an unnamed convertible.
'The Smart Passion will have more equipment and a more luxurious interior,' said Lars Brorsen, Micro Compact Car managing director. Prices will begin at DM16,000 for the Smart Pure and end at about DM20,000 for the Smart Passion.
Currently more than 400 potential customers are calling the Smart hotline per day to get information. The database of callers totals 225,000.
Orders will be accepted in June. Brorsen expects to deliver 20,000 Smarts in 1998, 130,000 in 1999 and 200,000 in 2000.
'Beginning with the year 2000 we expect to have a positive cash flow with the Smart,' said Brorsen.
Two more models will get gasoline direct-injection engines in Europe this year.
The Spacestar minivan will go on sale starting in October with a 1.8-liter GDI.
The Space Wagon successor, which will be sourced from Japan at the end of the year, will have a 2.4-liter GDI, said Bernhard Lotto, director of technical homologation services at MMC Automobile AG in Switzerland.
So far, Mitsubishi's only outside customer for GDI engines is Volvo. The Volvo S40/V40 models produced at their NedCar joint-venture plant use a 1.8-liter GDI. A 2.4-liter GDI will be offered when the European version of this engine becomes available at the end of the year.
Volvo's own, high-powered GDI engine will enter production by 2000, said Staffan Lundgren, Volvo's project manager for engine design and development.
Mitsubishi already makes two high-powered GDIs, a 3.0-liter V-6 and a 3.5-liter engine, but these are only for the Japanese market.
Mitsubishi's engine plant in Japan makes 30,000 GDIs a month, 37.5 percent of the carmaker's total engine output.
Work on a Carisma replacement has already started, said Kiyotaka Takizawa, executive vice president of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. 'But there is an argument in the company on a shorter or longer life cycle of the current model,' he said. Volvo wants to change in 2002, and Mitsubishi wants to wait until 2004, according to Volvo sources.
Mitsubishi is the lead partner in developing the platform it shares with Volvo at their NedCar plant.
'We are talking with our partner about more commonality of sheet metal and mechanical components,' said Takizawa, 'with emphasis on lighter construction.'
Wim Oude Weernink
The Micra supermini received its biggest facelift since being launched in 1992.
Changes include an integrated hood and grille and larger headlights. Nissan also showed a Micra powered by a PSA-built diesel.
Dealers have been shown drawings of two future multi-purpose vehicles. 'One will be Almera-based, the other of Primera size,' said a Nissan source. Production of the next-generation Almera will start in Sunderland, UK, in 2000.
Nissan will sell a new Japan-built Maxima in Europe starting in 2000.
Wim Oude Weernink
The Nissan Micra is unlikely to grow in exterior dimensions as the VW Polo and other competitors have done, said Satoshi Matsutomi, manager of Primera marketing in Europe.
He said designers will work on improving the interior space while keeping the car small to meet European road conditions.
GM's Opel/Vauxhall Astra - introduced last autumn - was shown in the three body styles it will be sold in later this month: three-door, five-door and station wagon. Next spring, the Zafira compact minivan arrives, followed by a coupe and convertible.
GM showed the Bertone-designed coupe at its press conference, breaking the tradition of showing only a slide of an upcoming model.
There will also be a cargo version and possibly other derivatives from Brazil.
Diana T. Kurylko
The Z8 will be made in the Sochaux plant, said Jean-Louis Silvant, the newly appointed PSA manufacturing manager. Z8 is the code-name for the successor to the top-of-the-range 605 model. The car is due next year.
The 205 successor will be the 206, not the 207, according to insiders. 'It will mark the continuity with the current range,' said a Peugeot top executive. The future supermini will be unveiled to the press in May and to the public at the Paris show in October.
Wim Oude Weernink
Peugeot will have more niche cars and derivatives in the future.
'The new organization at PSA will allow us to have more niche cars,' said Frederic Saint-Geours, Peugeot's brand director.
Peugeot product strategy will focus on two main values: to reasure the customer with classic cars and solid engineering and to underline dyamism with a new design.
'Like the T1 project - the 205 successor - our future sedans will have a stronger design from the very beginning. What's more, derivatives like coupes, wagons, etc., will appear faster after the sedan.'
The Peugeot 806 minivan will have a successor made in cooperation with Fiat. 'It will less look like a commercial van and be more sedan-oriented,' said Saint-Geours.
The Porsche 911 Carrera Convertible had a world premiere.
'We are convinced that we will fish in the lakes of the others with this convertible,' said Wendelin Wiedeking, Porsche chairman. Prices will start at DM155,116 ($85,300).
VW and Porsche plan a sport-utility project. The two companies' boards will decide at the end of March whether to build it. 'The SUV is the only possible alternative segment for us,' said Wiedeking.
The Scenic will separate itself from the Megane range.
'We want to make the car quite different from the sedan with the next facelift,' said Georges Douin, executive vice president in charge of product planning. This facelifted Scenic is due to appear next year.
The next Scenic will have a 4x4 version, made in cooperation with Steyr-Daimler-Puch. Steyr will provide 4x4 transmission elements, but the car will be assembled at Renault's Douai plant along with the other current versions.
The new Silver Seraph carries over only three minor components from its predecessor - 'unlike the 1980 Silver Spirit and Silver Spur, which were more or less evolutions of the Silver Shadow,' said Chairman Graham Morris.
The Silver Seraph's development took 36 months from design freeze in 1994. Sales started immediately after the Geneva show.
Morris said that if Mercedes-Benz decided to market its Maybach luxury sedan, 'it would broaden the market and bring more customers to the segment.'
Wim Oude Weernink
In 2000, Rover will be the first carmaker to use the new 1.6-liter, 115hp engine being developed in Brazil in a BMW-Chrysler joint venture.
Chrysler used the engine in a concept, the Pronto Cruizer.
Wim Oude Weernink
Seat showed its Passat-sized Bolero concept, which introduced a grille with a centered logo that will appear on all future Seat cars.
The Bolero featured a number of innovative interior designs. These include an upright rotating handbrake and two steering wheel-mounted buttons for changing gears. There is also an upright gear shift next to the handbrake.
The Bolero is powered by a 242hp, 2.8-liter V-6.
Skoda showed its facelifted Felicia. The front end now resembles the Octavia.
The Octavia Touring station wagon, the last variant of the Octavia, was on Skoda's stand and is being presented to the press this month in Rome. Sales begin soon after.
The European version of the Grand Vitara debuted. It is aimed at the Mitsubishi Pajero and the Honda CRV. The Grand Vitara has a 2.0-liter, six-cylinder gasoline engine.
Telco showed its Tata Safari sport-utility and the unnamed supermini that it will bring to Europe before 2000. Telco eventually wants to sell about 50,000 units a year in Europe.
Telco has sold commercial vehicles for several years in Europe, and it dominates the Indian truck market. This is its first serious attempt to sell passenger cars. The Safari is on sale now in India, and the small car will debut this autumn. Cars will come to Europe after a year's experience in India, said Executive Director Farrokh Kavarana.
'An international presence is absolutely essential to Telco's long-term growth plans, and the real challenge is to earn acceptance of our vehicles in some of the developed nations,' said Chairman Ratan Tata.
Kavarana said press interest in Tata was greater than expected, as 2,000 press kits that were meant to last a week were exhausted on the first day.
Toyota named its new small car for Europe the Yaris, an invented word. It will be imported from Japan beginning in 1999. Production begins in France in 2001.
The Yaris was designed for Europe. It is expected to come in several body styles, including a small pickup. The first to be shown is a three-door with an aggressive shape and distinct European flavor.
The car doesn't go on sale for a year. It is 3610mm long, 1650mm wide and 1490mm high. It is compact and tall like the Mercedes-Benz A-class. Engineers say it is as roomy but more stable because the floor is flat.
The Yaris will be powered by a new 16-valve 1.0-liter engine, the first of a new family of Toyota small-car engines.
Toyota will position the Yaris against volume makes, not luxury makes. The Yaris will be the key to Toyota's plan to boost sales from 379,000 last year to 600,000 early in the next decade.
Diana T. Kurylko
The Lexus small sedan, the IS200, goes on sale in Europe starting mid-1999. Toyota expects that if total Lexus sales are boosted to about 25,000 units, it will justify starting a separate Lexus franchise in Europe as it has in the USA.
The IS200 is aimed at the BMW 3 series and Mercedes-Benz C-class. It was designed for Europe, though it will be sold in other markets.
The rear-drive car mimics the BMW's lines, and its 2.0-liter, six-cylinder engine uses an inline arrangement rather than the traditional Toyota V-6.
Toyota distributors met for a day at the Intercontinental Hotel with their new sales and marketing boss, Juan Jose Diaz Ruiz.
Diana T. Kurylko
Toyota engineers are preparing Toyota's hybrid car, the Prius, for Europe. The Prius is on sale in Japan, and engineers are gaining technical experience. A spokesman said it will come to Europe 'shortly after the turn of the century.'
Wim Oude Weernink
Valmet showed a concept convertible sport-utility based on the Honda CRV, but there are no production plans. Valmet believes there is a market for more convertible sport-utilities. Although west European sales of Ladas have been slow, Valmet says it will continue building them under license.
Volkswagen showed two W-12-powered concepts, a 420hp roadster and a sports car. Planned production is at least 100 roadsters a year, starting in 2000, and 200 sports cars.
The roadster uses modified headlights from the new Golf and cockpit elements from the new Lupo.
Sales of the VW Golf convertible start in April.
The VW Lupo city car will be built in both a fuel-efficient three-liter version and a high-performance GDI version. The contrast will give the marketplace an interesting choice in expressing its preferences, said Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi's chief of advance development.
Volvo wants to replace the S40/V40 in 2002, rather than 2004 as preferred by Mitsubishi, its partner at NedCar in the Netherlands. A decision could be made by late this year according to a Volvo source. Volvo plans to raise production of the S40/V40 at NedCar to 145,000 units a year to support exports to North America. Production was 115,023 units in 1997.
Wim Oude Weernink