LONDON - Thanks to the World Cup, customers are seeing a pan-European summer cars this year.
Opel, the official World Cup automotive sponsor, has repackaged its base-model, 1.0-liter, 55hp Corsa by giving it a sporty look, power steering and upgraded wheels and naming it 'World Cup' to coincide with the world's most-watched sporting event. It has been on sale in most of Europe since May and will remain through July.
Traditionally, summer cars are marketing gimmicks oriented to a single country.
For example, the Mitsubishi Colt Maui and the Honda Civic Illusion are designed for the UK market. The UK has always been a strong summer car market because of the registration bulge in August, in which a fourth of the year's sales take place.
'Special editions keep the model range more attractive,' said Opel spokesman Ulrich Weber in Germany. 'One aspect is to increase the showroom traffic, but it is really about finding the right combination to make the brand attractive.'
The basic Corsa World Cup represents a 6 percent price cut for consumers. It is equipped with power steering, antilock brakes, sunroof and aluminum wheels. There are three versions. GM would not project sales, but said that in Germany, the target had already been reached.
Germany, Europe's biggest market, also gets a fair share of summer cars.
Ford launched two special editions of the Ka there, in runs of 3,000 each. Each special is based on the 60hp, 1.3-liter version. Last year, a single Ka summer car sold 3,000 units in Germany. The Lufthansa Ka used leather seats like those in the airline's business class.
The Ka K2 is bright yellow, with unique upholstery, carpets, wheel covers and radio, for a 'cheerful, lifestyle' theme. Priced at DM21,000 ($11,780), the K2 includes a free pair of in-line skates. The Ka Blue Line, priced at DM18,900, is more conservative. Ford says both models represent a 4 percent price reduction.
'A special edition is an effective tool to keep up the hype of the brand,' said Chris Sieder, a spokesman for Ford of Germany. 'It is always positive if they have the effect of dragging people along to the showroom, even if they just consider buying a Ford.'
In Italy, Fiat has several special editions. The Punto Colt is the flagship of the summer fleet. A similar car in the UK is called the Punto Team.
Mitsubishi Motors in the UK repackaged 1,000 Carismas and 750 Colts under the Maui name. The Maui adds air-conditioning, CD and radio, wheel trims and a limited-edition body color. Priced at £9,995 ($16,290), it is 1.7 percent less than the GLX it is based on. Already, customers have ordered 500 Carisma Mauis and 400 Colt Mauis.
Honda's Civic Illusion is a special edition of 2,500 cars fitted with features like central locking and a year's free insurance.
The car is available only in blue. The nearly invisible version used in a national advertising campaign was painted by hand.