General Motors Europe kept its promise to invest in new niche products by rolling out the new Agila microvan and Speedster roadster at Geneva.
'Opel is the automobile brand dedicated to making German technology accessible to the widest group of drivers,' said Opel Chairman Bob Hendry. GM also showed the new Cadillac Imaj concept car and a new prototype Saab engine (see Page 12).
The Speedster - which will be known as the Vauxhall VX220 in the UK - made it to production form in record time for GM. The car was shown as a prototype last year at Geneva and received the go-ahead several months later. Based on the Lotus Elise, it will be built by the British sports car maker and will go on sale this autumn.
The Agila, below, is based on the Suzuki Wagon-R+. It will be built at GM's new factory in Poland and will go on sale in late spring.
On the concept side, a fuel cell version of the Zafira compact minivan was shown. The car features what GM claims is the most advanced fuel cell stack developed to date. It produces 15 percent more power for its size than rival units, GM executives said. The fuel cell Zafira will be tested in Europe and the USA this summer, but a production version is several years away.
Cadillac's Imaj concept car features all-wheel drive, night vision, obstacle sensors and a supercharged Northstar V-8 engine. With a sharp front end and square rear, Imaj takes styling cues from the Evoq roadster shown at the Detroit auto show last year. It was designed and built at GM's Concept Design Studio in Birmingham, England, under design director Simon Cox.
The new vehicles added sparkle to an otherwise lackluster press conference, where 1999 profits of $423 million for GM Europe, up from $416 million in 1998, were disclosed. GM executives said the earnings were far below satisfactory levels. But they stressed that the rise to 10.4 percent market share in Europe last year, up from 10.2 percent a year earlier, marked the first positive increase since 1994. Revenues rose to $26.2 billion, up from $25.8 billion a year earlier.