TURIN - The Italian auto industry is preparing for a busy Frankfurt show in September with new offerings from Fiat, Lancia, Bertone and Pininfarina.
Fiat will display the new Punto range, prior to the car going on sale just after the show. The Punto has to sell well to help return Fiat's Italian market share to 40 percent and move the company back into profitability. Pininfarina will also show a concept car based on the Punto three-door. It will be a coupe/cabriolet in a similar guise to the Peugeot `two-oh-heart' concept car that previewed the 206.
Considering that Fiat has not made any announcements about new Punto derivatives (the current Punto cabriolet will remain in production at Bertone until 2001), this Pininfarina proposal looks to be much more than a simple show car.
The new Lybra sedan and station wagon is equally as important a launch for the Lancia brand as the Punto is for Fiat. Making its debut at Frankfurt, the Lybra will compete with the BMW 3 series in the premium upper-medium segment of the market. The station wagon is expected to account for about 60 percent of Lybra sales in Italy, and 50 percent elsewhere in Europe. There are no plans to build a right-hand-drive version.
Opel will unveil the Astra Coupe in Frankfurt. The car has been designed, engineered and produced by Bertone, which is also responsible for a cabriolet version set to appear in March 2000 at the Geneva show.
Pininfarina will also show the production version of the Mitsubishi Pajero Pinin it builds at its new Bairo Canavese plant. Its other concept car is the Metrocubo, which means cubic meter in Italian. This concept is less than 3 meters long and about 1.75 meters wide, carrying up to five passengers. The complete interior is flexible and all the seats - except the driver's - can be removed, packed or stored out of the car. The door layout is asymmetric: the driver has a small sliding door, the passengers a traditional one. Powered by a hybrid powertrain with a range of 400kms, the Metrocubo features Michelin's PAX system tires, eliminating the need for a spare tire.
There's nothing new from Alfa Romeo, although the 145/146 replacement could be previewed at the end of the year or in early 2000.
Ferrari and Maserati had two introductions at Geneva, the 360 Modena and the 3200 GT automatic - so they won't take anything new to Frankfurt. The same goes for Lamborghini, whose hugely restyled Diablo for model year 2000 is expected to debut at December's Bologna show.
Italdesign has styled and built a third Bugatti concept car for Volkswagen.
This new running prototype, powered with the 6.2-liter W18-cylinder engine, will be a two-seater coupe.
Other Italian-built cars at Frankfurt include the Mercedes-Benz Vision SLR roadster, built by STOLA, and the Citroen C6 Lignage cabriolet built by G. Studio.