SEVERAL NEW production models and concept cars debuted at the Paris auto show. But the world's auto executives made plenty of other news when they gathered at the city's Parc des Expositions. Here is a brand-by-brand rundown of what happened in Paris
Production of Alfa Romeo's 156 has hit 540 units a day and could soon reach 600 - the maximum capacity. Alfa is aiming to build 118,000 156s this year and 130,000 in 1999.
A 156 SportWagon station wagon will be launched in February 2000. Alfa's last station wagon was the 33 SportWagon, discontinued in 1994.
A flagship 166 could also be launched, equipped with a 2.5-liter, twin-turbo, V-6 engine that makes 270hp. But its future is uncertain because Fiat Auto's new six-speed gearbox has trouble coping with the engine's huge torque at low revs. Alfa's transverse mounting of the engine prevents the use of gearboxes made by other suppliers because they do not fit the 166's engine bay.
Chief executive Franz-Josef Paefgen said the new Allroad may be built by Magna-Steyr in Graz, Austria. The Allroad is an all-wheel-drive passenger car, based on the Audi A6. It was first seen as a concept at this year's Detroit auto show. Magna-Steyr would put the Allroad through its final development stages and prepare it for production, as with the Audi TT coupe.
A new sport-utility, due in early 1999, will be more like the Lexus RX 300 than the Mercedes-Benz M-class, said BMW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder. Pischetsrieder believes BMW will create a new segment in the sport-utility market with its US-built vehicle. Inside BMW it is called the SAV, or sport-activity vehicle. Market research shows drivers like to sit high, as in a traditional sport-utility, but want a passenger-car ride, Pischetsrieder said.
Land Rover will use the BMW vehicle's engine and transmission for its next Range Rover, he added.
Diana T. Kurylko
Volkswagen, which bought the Bugatti trademark in June 1998 for a reported L30 billion ($17.6 million), will pass Rolls-Royce rights to BMW at the end of 2002. By that time Bugatti could be established as VW's new high-end brand.
The EB118 may be the basis of the first new Bugatti. As long and as wide as a Mercedes S-class, the two-door, four-seat coupe is a running prototype. Italdesign's Giorgetto Giugiaro styled the exterior, his son Fabrizio designed the interior.
The car has an aluminum spaceframe and is powered by a new VW-developed 6.3-liter W18 engine. Fabrizio Giugiaro fired up the engine at Paris, filling the stand with exhaust smoke. It has a claimed output of 555hp and is coupled with full-time four-wheel-drive.
The Xsara Picasso compact minivan will be launched in autumn 1999. It will follow several new competitors in the segment, including the Fiat Multipla, GM Zafira and facelifted Renault Scenic. The Picasso's base price will be FF115,000 ($20,900) in France, similar to the 1.6-liter Scenic. Annual sales in Europe are forecast to be 130,000 units. 'We are targeting the same customers with the Picasso as with the Xsara hatchback: medium-range buyers,' said Claude Satinet, Citroen general manager.
Citroen sales in 1998 may pass one million units worldwide for the first time, said Satinet. Last year, Citroen produced a record 892,000.
'This year we are set for a 100,000-unit gain,' he said. 'This is mainly due to the Xsara, but the Berlingo van is also doing well.'
Citroen will sell nearly half its production in two countries: 300,000 units in France and 170,000 in Spain.
Satinet said Citroen aims to add 130,000 to 140,000 sales in Europe by 2002, raising its market share from 5 percent to 6 percent. By that time, Citroen will have launched a new supermini based on the C3 concept unveiled in Paris. (See Page 16)
The replacements for the Xantia and XM may be based on a single platform, said Satinet. 'They will have an hydraulic suspension and they will be as different as the Xantia and XM,' he said. 'The Xantia replacement is a difficult challenge,' he said. 'It is one of Citroen's most effective models, and it is critical to adjust our sales toward north European countries.'
The XM replacement is a lesser priority. But 'we will have to produce a successful replacement,' Satinet said. 'A second failure would not be acceptable.'
Citroen launched a three-box version of the ZX in China on 28 September. It uses a 1.6-liter, electronic-injection engine. Planned Chinese production is 50,000 units this year, including hatchback and sedan. Citroen built 30,000 ZX units in China in 1997.
Daewoo said its talks with General Motors about a possible alliance are progressing slowly. The size of Daewoo's business meant GM's research was taking a long time to complete. Strikes at GM in the USA and the summer vacation have also contributed to the delay.
Daewoo confirmed it is developing a small multi-purpose vehicle, previously shown as the Tacuma concept. It is due to enter production in Korea in mid-2000. The upper-medium Shiraz will be launched in September 2000. The Nubira will have a major facelift next year.
Following the acquisition of SsangYong, the next new four-wheel-drive vehicle will be the FJ2 Musso replacement, due in February 2001. Minor changes are planned for the Korando in July 2000.
The new Mercedes-Benz S-class unveiled in Paris is 500 pounds lighter than its predecessor and loaded with advanced technology. It has a smart passenger airbag, curtain-like side airbags, a satellite-based navigation system, smart cruise control and a ventilated seat. Fuel consumption has been improved by 13 to 17 percent.
Diana T. Kurylko
Fiat Auto will spend L20 trillion ($12.8 billion) over the next four years on the development of 19 new models, said Roberto Testore, managing director.
Testore said the launch of a car bigger than the Marea is being considered. He also said Fiat would enter the 4x4 and sport-utility markets. Carrozzeria Bertone is reportedly working on the sport-utility project. It is likely to be an evolution of the Alfa Romeo Sportut styling exercise seen at Geneva in 1997.
Fiat showed the revamped Bravo/Brava range, with minor styling modifications and two new engines. The Punto's 16-valve 1.2-liter FIRE unit replaces the 12-valve 1.4 liter. It is smaller, lighter and offers improved fuel economy. Future Bravo/Brava models will also feature the 105hp, 1.9-liter JTD common rail diesel, from the Alfa Romeo 156.
The Fiat Coupe 2.0-liter 20V Turbo was on display with the 156's six-speed manual gearbox, and there was a minor facelift for the Ulysse minivan.
The new Multipla minivan will be launched in Italy on 15 November, and in the rest of Europe starting 15 January. 'We are aiming for 50,000 to 55,000 units,' said Loic Caperan, Fiat Auto marketing and sales manager. 'The breakeven point is 35,000 units.'
Testore said '1998 will not be triumphant' for Fiat, because of difficulties in the Brazilian market. In 1997, Fiat built 2.9 million vehicles and sold 2.7 million units. 'We will do much the same in 1998,' Testore said.
In Italy, where scrapping incentives ended in July, Testore said the market will reach its lowest level between December 1998 and February 1999. 'We will get out of this in mid-1999, when the new Punto is launched,' he said.
Production of the Palio world car and its derivatives will reach 550,000 units this year. 'In 1999, thanks to Poland and Turkey, we expect to pass 600,000 units,' said Testore. 'We are still targeting one million units at the beginning of the next decade.'
The Multipla will be priced 'between 95 percent and 105 percent of the Renault Megane Scenic's real price, depending on the country,' he said.
Stephane Farhi & Luca Ciferri
The new Focus was unveiled as 'one of the most important cars Ford has ever launched' at Paris. The lower-middle-size model is the 'first pure product' of the Ford 2000 global reorganization plan, said Phillippe Mellier, vice president of marketing, sales and service for Ford of Europe.
Sales started 1 October in France, with the base 1.4-liter five-door hatchback costing FF87,700 ($15,680).
At the other end of the range, the 2.0-liter station wagon retails for FF102,700. Air conditioning will be optional on the majority of models at FF3,500. The Focus goes on sale next in the UK, on 15 October.
At launch, the Focus will be available in four body styles - three-door, five-door, sedan and station wagon - with a choice of four engines. Richard Parry Jones, group vice president for product development for Ford Automotive Operations, said a multi-activity vehicle based on the Focus platform would probably go into production in mid-2000.
Ford also took the wraps off its 'Focus World Rally Car,' a competition version powered by a 2.0-liter Zetec E turbocharged engine.
General Motors Europe showed its facelifted Opel/Vauxhall Frontera sport-utility, together with the Zafira small minivan due on sale early next year.
Although the Zafira was first seen a year ago in Frankfurt as a static model, the vehicle's seven-seat system made its debut at Paris. The two rear rows of seats can be folded to create a large, flat carrying surface.
GM also showed a driveable fuel cell vehicle based on the Zafira. GM said it wants to have a fuel cell powered car on the road by 2004.
Diana T. Kurylko
The French coachbuilder showed a concept convertible called Pregunta (Spanish for 'question'). Designed by Heuliez Torino, Pregunta is powered by a 530hp, 5.7-liter Lamborghini engine.
Heuliez has won two new contracts. It will provide the folding roof and hood for the next Peugeot 206 convertible, due in early 2000. Production will be 250 to 300 units per day. Heuliez will also contribute some body parts for the future luxury coupe Matra will produce for Renault, also due in early 2000.
Honda unveiled its S2000 sports car to journalists the day before the Paris show started, but did not display it at the show. As a concept car, the 250hp two-seater was called the SSM. It will go on sale in Europe following its public debut at the 1999 Geneva auto show in March. Honda aims for European sales of 3,000 to 4,000 a year. Price is estimated at $44,700
Wim Oude Weernink
Accord Project Manager Hiroyuki Ikegami said only 35 percent of parts in the version launched in most European markets in October are shared with the Japanese Accord. Honda is varying the width and height of the Accord to suit regional tastes and demands.
There is a range of three gasoline engines - 1.8-liter, 2.0-liter and sporty 2.2-liter - together with five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. A direct-injection turbodiesel will be available starting in spring 1999. Accord prices range from £15,295 to £23,000 ($25,080 to $37,720) in the UK. A coupe is planned but there are no plans for a wagon version.
Hyundai unveiled its all-new XG executive car. The 2.5-liter, V-6 XG is based on the Sonata platform. It will be called the Alvana in Korea, where it goes on sale this month. The X6 will be launched in Europe next year.
Plans for the T8 roadster, which uses the Audi A8's engine and running gear, are in doubt. Audi chief executive Franz-Josef Paefgen said the company will not supply engines for the car.
'We would supply powertrains to them under certain terms,' he said. 'But these conditions could not be met, so it is all over now.' Paefgen would not disclose further details.
Production of the $90,000 T8 is scheduled to start next spring, with production rising from 1,700 units next year to 5,000 by 2002. The USA is expected to account for half of all sales.
Isotta Fraschini owner Giuliano Malvino denied that Audi had cancelled its contract to supply engines. 'We have just received from Audi the first 10 kits of engine, transmission, gearbox and suspensions to assemble the pre-production units that will be used for the press launch in December,' he said.
Meanwhile, Isotta Fraschini also unveiled a static styling model of the T12, a 2+2 coupe designed by the American Tom Tjaarda.
The T12 will be powered by a 400hp, 12-cylinder engine supplied by an unnamed manufacturer. The price will be over $175,000.
Wim Oude Weernink
Audi AG wants to put its new acquisition on track as soon as possible with improved marketing and added management strength.
'The brand is strong and undamaged,' said Audi Chief Executive Franz-Josef Paefgen. 'It is wild, very sporty but not predominantly elegant. We will retain and strengthen this. But we will not enter motor racing.'
Audi is expected to announce details of a restructuring later this month. Sources say Audi intends to appoint an Italian-born liaison manager, Rodolfo Rocchio.
The engineer has worked at Audi's Ingolstadt, Germany, headquarters. He will report to Lamborghini President Vittorio Di Capua.
Paefgen would not comment on future Lamborghini models. 'There will be nothing new before 2000,' he said. 'I cannot even say if there will be a successor to the current Diablo.'
He expressed confidence in Lamborghini quality. 'What we have seen so far has not been bad,' he said. 'But we will monitor quality and improve it with the help of our own systems.'
Wim Oude Weernink
Lamborghini introduced two design changes to the 1999 Diablo, previewed at Geneva in March. Fixed lamps replace the pop-up headlights, and the instrument panel is new.
Relaunching Lancia is Fiat's next big project. 'We will launch the new Dedra in autumn 1999, the Kappa successor in late 2000 and the new Zeta minivan in 2001,' said Fiat Auto Managing Director Roberto Testore.
The replacement for the Epsilon, which accounts for almost 80 percent of Lancia sales, will arrive in 2002. No Delta replacement has yet been planned.
In Paris, Lancia introduced two new versions of the current Epsilon, the Elefantino Rosso (small red elephant) and the Elefantino Blu (small blue elephant).
The 16-valve, 1.2-liter Rosso is aimed at young and sporty customers. The 8-valve, 1.2-liter Blu is a more classy, entry-level version. Both Elefantino models provide better value for money than comparably equipped LS and LX Epsilons.
Maserati will return to the USA in 2001 with the new 2+2 3200GT coupe unveiled in Paris and a two-seat spider derivative, expected to go on sale in Europe in 2000.
The 280kph 3200GT, with exterior by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign and interior by Enrico Fumia of Fiat's styling center, is powered by a Maserati twin-turbo, 370hp, 3.2-liter V-8.
European sales start in January. The price is $95,000.
Maserati plans to build 1,700 3200GTs in 1999, and reach 6,000 to 6,500 units in 2004, when US sales will be at full speed.
Sales of the NedCar-built Space Star will be phased in across Europe between now and early next year. Mitsubishi expects to sell 15,000 units of the new small MPV in 1999.
The new Space Wagon, seen at Tokyo last year, was also on display. At 4.6 meters long, the Space Wagon is the largest of Mitsubishi's three MPV-type models.
Mitsubishi will complete this range with the new Space Runner in summer 1999. It will be positioned between the Space Star and Space Wagon.
The Pajero Sport also made its debut at Paris. Based on the L200 platform, it uses traditional live front and rear axles and will be sold only in selected European markets.
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Nissan Europe's Munich design studio showed its first complete concept vehicle. Called KYXX, the car is a study for a future supermini model with lower-medium interior space.
'KYXX is a possible design direction for the next Micra,' said Tim Holmes, Nissan Europe spokesman.
'The concept is all about space, and the car is packaged to accept a small, four-cylinder, 80hp, direct-injection diesel engine to meet 'three-liter' fuel-consumption objectives.'
Nissan intends to look at more concepts before it decides on the design of the Micra's successor.
'That model was developed for a rather long life cycle of about 10 years,' Holmes said. 'In fact, a time frame for the next Micra launch has not been set yet. It will probably take place between 2000 and 2005.' Industry sources say it will be launched in 2002.
Nissan will show a concept study of a lower-medium multi-purpose vehicle in the near future, possibly at the 1999 Geneva auto show. 'The design will form the basis of our multi-purpose vehicle model, which will be produced in Spain shortly after 2000,' Holmes said.
Wim Oude Weernink
Peugeot plans to sell 100,000 units of its 206 in Europe by the end of the year, said General Manager Frederic Saint-Geours. He said Peugeot had already taken 40,000 orders. Production of the 206 will start in Argentina next year.
Peugeot expects to sell 250,000 vehicles outside Europe this year, up from 207,000 in 1997. 'We want to double that within five years to 500,000 units,' said Saint-Geours.
'The main targets are: Iran (36,000 units in 1998), Mercosur (75,000) and central and eastern Europe (40,000).
Peugeot's successor to the 605, code-named Z8, is due to be launched in 2000, said Pascal Henault, in charge of innovation and advanced programs for PSA/Peugeot-Citroen.
A new 911 Carrera 4 debuted. The four-wheel drive system has been updated from the previous Carrera 4. Weight distribution has been improved by moving the visco clutch from the transmission housing to the front differential housing.
Also new is the electronic stability control system called Porsche Stability Management. The Carrera 4 goes on sale across Europe on 24 October. It will be launched in the USA in January.
After the Vel Satis concept car (see Page 16), Renault's main attraction was a Renault Sport version of the Clio. The special version is powered by a 24-valve, 250hp mid-mounted V-6. Renault has not decided whether it will launch the car.
Renault also introduced Initiale luxury trim versions of the Twingo, Clio, Espace and V-6-powered Safrane. The cars have leather seats, air conditioning, power steering, metallic paint and large tires. The Megane, Laguna and five-cylinder Safrane already have Initiale versions.
BMW is planning to expand the Rolls-Royce line-up with a second model. 'We are developing a new, different product,' said BMW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder.
BMW will take control of the Rolls-Royce brand in January 2003. Volkswagen bought Rolls-Royce Motor Cars from Vickers plc, but did not acquire rights to the Rolls name.
VW will keep the Bentley name and the factory in Crewe, UK. It will make the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph there until 2003 - at least.
After 2003, Pischetsrieder said BMW will continue production of the Silver Seraph, either at Crewe 'or more likely in our own facility.' Pischetsrieder said Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars will be distributed independently. Volkswagen will manage Rolls-Royce franchise agreements through 2002, and BMW afterward.
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Rolls-Royce Motor Cars showed the Bentley Sedanca Coupe, the fourth Bentley two-door model. It joins the Continental R, Continental T and Azure in the lineup.
Two removable lightweight roof panels above the driver and passenger are designed for easy removal by one person. They are automatically released by power latches.
Rolls-Royce CEO Graham Morris said the new Sedanca was 'developed following feedback from the many aficionados of the marque who want the combination of open-air motoring and the comfort of an enclosed cabin.'
The interior and exterior design of the new Mini has been finalized, according to Rover Chairman Walter Hasselkus. It will go on sale starting in late 2000.
Outside, the car will differ only in detail from the concept shown last autumn. 'It is a strong design, which makes some statements,' Hasselkus said. He said that the new Mini has been well received in customer clinics.
'The Mini won't follow the current trend of increased body height,' said Richard Gaul, spokesman for Rover's owner BMW. The Mini project is being managed by Rover engineer Chris Lee. The styling is the work of the Rover design studio in Gaydon, UK, headed by Geoff Upex.
The car will be built at Rover's Longbridge, UK, plant, which will be retooled for an annual volume of 150,000. 'It won't be revolutionary but it will be state-of-the-art,' Hasselkus said.
The 3500mm Mini will be powered by a 1.4-liter engine being developed jointly with Chrysler.
Rover's new premium sedan, the R75, will be launched at the Birmingham auto show on 19 October. The R75 will eventually go on sale in the USA, but BMW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder said it may not arrive for several years.
He said Rover will wait to return to the USA until it also replaces its 400 model, which is smaller than the 600 and 800 models that the R75 will replace.
In the USA, Rover cars will probably be sold through outlets selected from the existing 400 BMW or 100 Land Rover dealers. Exclusive Rover showrooms will share back office operations with other BMW Group dealers.
Rover will develop a concept car with the Riley name next year. The 100-year-old Riley brand, which was withdrawn by British Leyland in the late 1960s, is owned by Rover. The new Riley will be a sports sedan, not a sports car. It is expected to be based on the new R75, which will replace the 600 and 800. But Hasselkus said the Riley will not simply be a rebadged Rover. 'That is not an option; it must have its own strong identity,' he said. A decision on whether to produce the car will be based on public reaction to the prototype.
'Riley will be the name of the car, not the brand,' said Bernd Pischetsrieder, chairman of BMW, Rover's parent and a Riley enthusiast. 'With the Riley concept car we can monitor the effect of the name.'
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Saab may introduce a sport-utility, but chairman Robert Hendry said it would be a niche model, not high-volume.
It would probably be based on an existing General Motors vehicle. He said a third car line is needed to expand Saab volume significantly.
A decision on a new line is six to 12 months away.'Some people say it could be a bigger car, but I think a smaller car makes more sense,' Hendry said.
Saab expects to produce and sell about 120,000 cars in 1998, up from about 100,000 last year. For 1999, Hendry forecast sales and production of 140,000 units.
Skoda showed off several new versions of its Octavia series, including its new flagship model, the Laurin & Klement. Named after the company's founders, Vaclav Lauren and Vaclav Klement, the vehicles will go on sale next year in both wagon and sedan versions. Skoda officials have not set prices or named a launch date. In addition, Skoda unveiled a concept car, the Skoda Octavia Country, a variation on its Octavia Combi wagon.
The Country features a camping package that folds out of the rear tailgate. Detlef Wittig, Skoda's head of sales and marketing, declined to say whether the Country wagon will go into production.
But Skoda officials said they will introduce vehicles with four-wheel-drive, probably at the Geneva auto show in March.
Toyota will put more emphasis on southern Europe in an effort to raise sales across Europe to 600,000 in 2000. The European target is 500,000 this year, according Juan Jose Diaz Ruiz, Toyota Europe's vice president for sales.
Toyota's sales in southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal and southern France) rose 53 percent in August. By 2000 Toyota is aiming for a 2.5 percent market share in the region, compared with 4.0 percent for Europe as a whole. The brand had 2.8 percent of the west European market in the eight months of 1998.
Toyota showed the production version of the Yaris super-mini that debuted at the Geneva show in March. The first Yaris imports from Japan will arrive in Europe next year. Production of the car in Valenciennes, France, will begin in 2001.
Volkswagen says its new Lupo with a high-efficiency engine is the first production car to meet the German auto industry's 'three-liter' fuel-consumption target.
A 'three-liter' car travels 100km on 3 liters of fuel. The high-mileage Lupo is powered by a three-cylinder, 61hp diesel engine that injects fuel directly into the cylinders.
It will go on sale early next year, initially just in Germany. With aluminum and magnesium body panels and other components, it is 10 percent lighter than a standard Lupo.
The 'three-liter' target was set by German carmakers to reduce energy consumption and emissions and to improve the environment. The high-mileage Lupo produces only 90 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer - the lowest of any production car.
Thomas Hartmann, a VW production manager, said, 'With the new aluminum applications, and the importance of fine-tuning diesel equipment and the car's semiautomatic transmission, it will be a learning process. We have not set firm production volume objectives. Constant quality is our first goal.'
An annual volume of 25,000 units would be a reasonable estimate, Hartmann added. He could not confirm VW's commitment to the development of a 'two-liter' or even 'one-liter' car but said the research and development department is studying various concepts.
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Volkswagen will take its upper-medium Passat sedan upmarket next year with the introduction of an eight-cylinder version.
'After that we will bring out a big VW,' said Robert Buechelhofer, head of sales and marketing. 'It will be an all-new car to compete with the (BMW) 7 series.' The new VW flagship will be based on the company's D-platform, which is used for the Audi A8.
Volvo may be the auto industry's most eligible takeover target, but AB Volvo Chairman Leif Johansson says the company can prosper on its own. Still, he said the merger of DaimlerChrysler 'has started a debate around our car division on whether the division is big enough.'
Johansson believes that it is. 'We operate more as an integrator, with more emphasis on systems suppliers,' he said. 'We say that with two platforms and production of 450,000 cars, we can have a decent return on investment.
'But the financial markets say that seeing is believing.' Johansson said he would 'be prepared to outsource most anything.'
Last summer, Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech met with Johannson to discuss potential areas of cooperation. Johannson said he meets often with Piech, but that there are no plans to link with VW. Since DaimlerChrysler, he said there have been 'a number of contacts between manufacturers, ourselves included.'