Paris 2000 looks set to be one of the liveliest European auto shows in recent history. There will be vital new model launches from almost every manufacturer - and in almost every segment of the market. After our previews of new upper-medium contenders in the past two issues of Automotive News Europe, on this page we look at some of the other Paris launches that have been confirmed in recent weeks.
BMW will launch the new Mini at Paris rather than at the auto show in Birmingham, England, a month later. That decision illustrates BMW's determination to establish Mini as a major small-car brand right across Europe.
Sales of the old Mini have slowed dramatically outside the UK and Japan over the past few years. But the new Mini must stand on its own as a competitive BMW group brand in Europe, Asia and even the USA.
In 1998, BMW chose to launch the Rover 75 at Birmingham rather than Paris in a bid to underline the car's British pedigree. Ford launched the Jaguar S-type at the same show.
But there will be no such approach with the new Mini. Ultimately, BMW would like Mini to become its pan-European or even global small-car brand. This could result in new performance, entry-level and open-top versions spanning the Mini range.
The new Mini will be built at BMW's plant in Oxford, England. It will be sold through existing BMW dealers - although predominantly from separate showrooms. At Paris, the new Mini will be shown in performance Cooper specification with a 1.6-liter, 16-valve engine. A 1.4-liter unit will join the range later.
'The Mini is not a retro design car, but an evolution of the original,' said Frank Stephenson, chief designer for the Mini. 'It has the genes and many of the characteristics of its predecessor, but it is larger, more powerful, more muscular and more exciting.'
What is also clear is that the new Mini will be much more expensive than the old model. The performance Cooper version expected to be cost as much as E28,000 in pricier European markets.
M-B hatch goes panoramic
Mercedes-Benz's C-class Sports Coupe is set to star at Paris.
Although the Sports Coupe is basically a C-class hatchback, clever styling and sportier manners will define it as a new, standalone model line. The latest official pictures show the car's panoramic sliding roof - a feature that is entering series production for the first time. The large glass surface stretches from the windshield to the hatchback, giving the interior and light and airy feel. At the touch of a button, the front section slides to the rear, providing an aperture 30 percent larger than a conventional sliding roof, says Mercedes.
The Mercedes-Benz G-class sport-utility will also be at Paris with a new interior design, technical innovations and new specification levels.
'The main emphasis of the G-class face-lift is to improve long-distance comfort and functionality,' said a spokesman. The G-class features new seats, a new air conditioning system and an improved dashboard layout.
The new G400 CDI model features an eight-cylinder diesel engine with common-rail direct injection, intercooler and two turbochargers. With 250hp, Mercedes-Benz claims it is the world's most powerful diesel-car engine.
Nissan eyes RAV4 market
The X-Trail is Nissan's compact 4x4 concept car for Paris. It gives a clear idea of Nissan's future rival to the Toyota RAV4 and the Land Rover Freelander.
Fitting below the Terrano II and the Patrol, the production X-Trail will give Nissan a full range of sport-utilities for Europe.
Nissan says the X-Trail features a class-leading 4x4 system coupled with excellent road manners. Safety features and comfort were also developmental priorities for Nissan's engineers.
De' Silva's final Alfa legacy
The Alfa Romeo 147 was seen for the first time at the Turin auto show in June. But Paris will give the Italian carmaker a bigger stage to show off its new lower-medium car to the public.
The 147 replaces both the 145 and 146. It was the last Alfa penned by Walter de' Silva before he left to take the top design position at Seat.
Although chassis, suspension and many style elements are developed from the larger 156, the 147 also borrows themes from classic Alfas of the past - especially in the grille treatment.
Arosa's new face
Meanwhile, over on the Seat stand, Walter de' Silva will have his first effort for the Spanish carmaker on display. De' Silva's revised Arosa mini makes its debut at Paris with a more luxurious interior and redesigned nose.
Seat's new corporate headlight and grille treatment will be extended to other models in the Seat range, starting with the 2001 Ibiza.