BIRMINGHAM - Although Paris holds seniority in the auto show world order, UK-based carmakers held back their big announcements for their home show in Birmingham just three weeks later.
Both Rover and Jaguar will unveil important new models.
For BMW-owned Rover, the new R75 sedan is crucial. The R75 replaces the 600 and 800 series built at Cowley, UK.
The R75 is based on a platform that was originally an option for the new BMW 3 series, but adapted by UK engineers to keep costs down. With a luxurious interior featuring large amounts of wood and leather, it represents BMW's vision of what a British-built car should look like.
This 'British' character is considered vital because Rover intends to return to the USA with this car. Rover's last effort there in the 1980s with its Sterling model was widely seen as a disaster.
The R75 will go on sale first in the UK starting in April 1999 and in other European markets soon after.
Rover has invested £400 million ($600 million) at its Cowley plant to build 130,000 units a year of the 2.5-liter, V-6-powered, front-wheel-drive car.
Competing for attention at the Birmingham show will be Jaguar's all-new S-type, targeted directly at the BMW 5 series and Mercedes E-class.
The S-type is based on the Lincoln LS6 and LS8 platform. It will be built at Castle Bromwich, where Jaguar has invested $600 million (including over $100 million from the UK government). When the smaller X400 enters production in 2000, Jaguar will be producing up to 200,000 cars a year at three UK plants.
Jaguar will also show the XK180 sports car developed by the company's special vehicle operations, which debuted at the Paris show.
Toyota will launch the Lexus IS 200, a competitor for the BMW 3 series, Mercedes-Benz C-class and Audi A4. The all-new, Japan-built sport sedan has been designed specifically for Europe. It will go on sale here next May, powered by a 2.0 liter 6-cylinder engine.
The IS 200 is counted on to become the top seller in Europe for Toyota's prestige brand.
Land Rover will present its facelifted Discovery in Birmingham, although it was also unveiled at Paris.
The new Discovery goes on sale in the UK in November, and will also go to the USA.
Other British-built newcomers at Birmingham include the Peugeot 206, which also appeared at Paris. The car will be built at Ryton near Coventry and is scheduled to go on sale next spring.
Honda will show its new Accord five-door, which will go on sale next summer. The five-model range will be available with 1.6-, 1.8- and 2.0-liter VTEC engines as well as a turbodiesel.
Important first showings for UK customers will include the full Ford Focus range of three-door, five-door, sedan and wagon.
Lotus will show off its radical Elise-based 340R, while another sports car maker, Jensen, will present its new V-8 roadster.
The Birmingham auto show will devote a hall to recent concept cars of worldwide significance, with the aim of giving a glimpse into motoring in the 21st century.
Olive Keogh contributed