It was not a typical Frankfurt auto show. Mercedes-Benz and BMW were uncharacteristically quiet, and there were no mainstream, volume production debuts. But Europe's most dynamic carmakers, Volkswagen AG and Renault SA, more than made up for these shortfalls with an impressive list of innovative introductions - including two dramatic new luxury cars. Here's a brand-by-brand report of everything that happened at Frankfurt '99.
The A2 supermini - which debuted at Frankfurt - marks the end of Audi's expansion into new segments for the time being. Audi is not planning to expand its range by launching a car smaller than the aluminum A2. At the other end of the lineup, the company has no plans to make a car bigger than the A8.
Neither is Audi planning to enter the burgeoning sport-utility market. The Allroad quattro, the 4x4 station wagon derived from the A6, 'already offers everything the Audi customer needs,' said Audi President Franz-Josef Paefgen.
'The Audi customer expects the driving experience of a technologically advanced and sophisticated passenger car, not the cumbersome drive of a truck,' Paefgen said.
'The Allroad quattro is not a compromise. It's not half on-road vehicle, half off-road vehicle. It's 100 percent of both.'
The Allroad quattro will reach European showrooms in spring 2000.
Paefgen confirmed that Audi was close to entering the truck business when Porsche and VW started to talk about their sport-utility joint venture. 'But that that project evolved in another direction,' he said.
Paefgen said the A2 would cost under DM35,000 (euro 17,725). He does not think the introduction of a small car will dilute Audi's image.
'A family could own both an A8 and an A2,' he said. 'Audi customers are buying into a brand. The A2 is a lifestyle vehicle, and it does not change Audi's positioning.'
VW unveiled its upper-range sedan, Concept D, at Frankfurt. But Audi won't be launching its own version.
Paefgen conceded that Audi's answer to increasing competition in the luxury-car market will be limited to bigger engines in the A8. A new 12-cylinder unit is under development. Only BMW and Mercedes currently offer 12-cylinder luxury sedans in Europe. Toyota has a Japan-only model.
Audi will not challenge DaimlerChrysler with a two-seat city car to rival the Smart.
'We will never make an A1,' Paefgen said. 'The only two-seat Audis will be coupes or roadsters.'
Audi showed the Audi S6 quattro at Frankfurt, featuring a modified 4.2-liter, five-valve V-8 engine. Paefgen said Audi's quattro penetration is continuing to rise.
'Quattro cars accounted for 20 percent of Audi's worldwide sales last year,' he said. 'They will be 25 percent this year. In North America they are already at 80 percent.'
Also on show at Frankfurt was the Audi RS4. Producing 380hp, it is the company's fastest-ever production car.
Like Mercedes-Benz, BMW's Frankfurt display was rather eclipsed by the Volkswagen group's impressive list of launches.
BMW's Z9 gullwing coupe (see concept cars report) was showcased alongside the Z8 roadster, which was making its production debut before going on sale next spring.
Wolfgang Reitzle may know a lot about about BMW's future model programs after leaving the Munich-based manufacturer for Ford just six months ago - but the Z9 grand tourer which made an appearance at Frankfurt will have been a surprise even to him. Badged Gran Turismo, the Z9 is powered by the 3.9 liter V-8 diesel engine which powers the 7 series saloon. It suggests BMW is ready to return to the luxury coupe market after the success of the 6 series in the 1980s and the recent demise of the 8 series. The 3 series range was extended with the launch of new Touring and M3 versions.
Citroen is likely to have three models in the supermini segment by 2002-2003. Citroen is planning a smaller successor to the Saxo, code named A8; a small sedan derivative of the C3 concept car; and probably a production car derived from the Pluriel (see concept cars report).
'It will be interesting to have at least both the Saxo and C3 in the supermini segment,' said Claude Satinet, PSA executive vice president in charge of Citroen. 'The Pluriel would also add something (because of its versatility).'
He said that all three models will be based on PSA's new PF1 platform.
'We think there is enough space for multiple offerings in the supermini segment,' said Vincent Besson, Citroen's vice president for product planning.
The Pluriel would have been impossible without a platform strategy, said Satinet. The car uses a removable canvas roof to transform a four-seat, two-door supermini into a convertible and a small pick-up. It updates the 2CV concept.
'Pluriel really fits Citroen's tradition,' said Satinet. 'We are back into innovation without being unrealistic.'
Citroen is targeting a maximum price of FF100,000 (euro 15,250) to compete with convertibles such as the Fiat Punto or the future Peugeot 206 coupe/cabriolet.
Citroen also showed a facelifted Saxo - the car's first revamp since its launch in 1996. It includes a new front end with wider headlamps, new fenders and a new hood. Interior equipment has been upgraded. The car goes on sale in October throughout Europe.
The Picasso compact minivan will go on sale in December. Citroen expects to sell 130,000-140,000 units a year.
Citroen will decide later this year or in early 2000 whether to build a top-of-the-range sedan inspired by the C6 concept car unveiled in Geneva in March, according to Satinet. 'I think it's likely the project will be given the go-ahead,' he said.
Invitations to a midnight unveiling of the new Daewoo Tacuma compact minivan on the eve of the Frankfurt motor show promised an appearance by Chairman Kim Woo-Choong. But he was not there. We were told he was back in Korea trying to keep the banks happy.
Meanwhile, life goes on at Daewoo operations around the world. The Tacuma, a five-seater, was first seen at the Seoul motor show in May. Frankfurt marked its European debut. Two versions were on display - a garish 2.0-liter 'Sport' edition and a more subdued 1.8-liter 'Style' version.
The Tacuma will go on sale in Europe in July or August 2000. Daewoo hopes to sell 300,000 units worldwide annually (see story, page 28).
President Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said Ferrari will sell over 3,700 units worldwide in 1999 - its sixth consecutive annual increase. Ferrari sold 3,637 units last year, but its record year remains 1991, when it sold 4,589 units.
The USA will remain Ferrari's biggest market this year. Montezemolo expects sales of about 1,000 units there, followed by Germany (600) and the UK (500 - a record).
Montezemolo said the entire 2000 production of the 360 Modena coupe - 2,000 units - is already sold out. In several markets, buyers must wait over 12 months for delivery, which is 'honestly too long,' he said.
Montezemolo also confirmed the 360 Modena Spider will be launched next year. It could debut at Geneva in March or at Turin in June.
Ferrari unveiled the 360 Modena Challenge at Frankfurt, a racing version of its new coupe. The car has special Brembo brakes, BBS alloy wheels with Pirelli Pzero slick tires, and a 100-liter racing fuel tank.
Fiat Auto said it has received 100,000 dealer orders for its new Punto.
'These orders went much further than any optimistic forecast we had,' said Roberto Testore, Fiat Auto's managing director. 'We were expecting 60,000 orders. Sixty percent of the orders came from abroad, and just 40 percent from Italy.'
The five-door version accounted for 60 percent of orders. Diesel versions made up 20 percent.
The new Punto went on sale in Italy, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland on September 11. Other European markets will follow in October and November.
Strong demand for the new Punto won't create long waiting lists, said Testore. 'By the end of September, output will reach 2,000 units a day. By November, we will reach 3,000 units day,' he said. 'We will build 150,000 new Puntos this year, plus 300,000 of the first-generation model. Next year we will build between 600,000-700,000 new Puntos.'
According to Testore, Fiat Auto will sell 2.5 million units worldwide this year. That total will be made up of 210,000 Alfa Romeos, 140,000-150,000 Lancias, and over 2.1 million Fiats, light commercial vehicles included.
'The fragmentation in demand continues,' said Testore. 'In the past, you covered 80 percent of the market with a range of seven or eight models. Now you need 20 different models to gain the same percentage. This continues to rise.'
Testore also said Fiat will continue to cooperate with other carmakers on a technical basis. Fiat already makes minivans and light commercial vehicles in a tie-up with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen. In 2001, Fiat will launch a compact sport-utility derived from Mitsubishi's Pajero Pinin, built in Turin by Pininfarina.
Ford Motor Co. exhibited its five major brands for the first time in a single display here: Aston Martin, Ford, Jaguar, Mazda and Volvo.
The individual displays of each brand were linked by the Ford 'trustmark bridge,' a large metal span that dominated the exhibit and featured key products from each of the brands: an Aston Martin Vantage Volante convertible, the Ford Thunderbird concept roadster, the Jaguar XK180 concept roadster, Mazda's Neospace compact multi-activity vehicle, and a Volvo S80 sedan with cutaway views of Volvo safety innovations.
The big Ford stand in Hall 4.0 at the Frankfurt Messe echoed one at the Detroit auto show early this year.
The trustmark concept is a term Ford Motor Co. is using to refer to its brand umbrella. Ford will be using its traditional flowing script insignia to refer to the larger company and the blue oval to signify Ford brand vehicles and other products. In Frankfurt the overall umbrella logo appeared above a line with all the brands below it.
Key executives spoke from a podium built under the trustmark symbol. These included Premier Automotive Group Chairman Wolfgang Reitzle, Ford of Europe President Nick Scheele, and Volvo chief executive Tuve Johannesson.
Under the leadership of Ford President and chief executive Jac Nasser, Ford is touting itself as the 'world's leading consumer company selling automotive products and services.'
With no all-new products to show at Frankfurt, Ford chose to place the emphasis on technology - and particularly environmental developments.
At the center of the Ford display stood the FC5 concept vehicle, which Ford called a 'realistic vision of what a five-door family car could be' in five years' time.
The FC5 resembles a tall version of the Ford Focus five-door. It features a fuel-cell unit that converts methanol into hydrogen. The fuel-cell unit is located under the car's floor.
Ford also presented the Focus recycling concept vehicle. It features about three times the amount of recycled material as the production Focus.
Ford showed a 1.1-liter direct-injection gasoline engine, called the Zetec-SE 13 - designed for reducing emissions and improving fuel economy in stop-and-go city driving.
The Fiesta has been facelifted with new headlamps, a wider grille, new hood, and new front wings and bumpers, in keeping with Ford's 'new edge' design theme.
Ford also rolled out a high-performance version of the Cougar, the ST200. It is powered by a 2.5-liter, 205hp V-6, which it shares with the Mondeo ST200.
Honda showed the Insight, a gasoline-electric hybrid two-seat coupe. The Insight boasts fuel consumption of 3.4-liters per 100km, and emissions less than half those set out in the Euro 2000 standards. It accelerates from 0-100kph in 12 seconds. Energy produced while braking is stored as electric power in nickel-hydride batteries.
The Insight will be introduced to Europe early next year.
President and Chief Executive Lee Kye Ahn traveled to Frankfurt to underline Hyundai's new platform strategy. The company plans to reduce the number of Hyundai and Kia platforms from 24 down to 12, and eventually to seven, by around 2005.
'We are currently looking at platform sharing and integrating a number of operations between the two companies which will result in considerable cost savings,' Lee said.
Hyundai unveiled its all-new Accent which was developed inside 27 months. It will be available in four-door sedan and three- and five-door hatchback forms. It is being built at the Ulsan No. 1 plant in Korea at a rate of 350,000 units year. This includes the export of complete knockdown kits to Hyundai plants worldwide.
Job one rolled off the production line in June, and the new Accent was launched on the domestic market later that month. Exports are expected to start in late 1999.
The restyled Hyundai Coupe was also at Frankfurt. The Coupe must take the prize for the most disappointing update at the show. The previous car's much-praised design has been replaced by a fussy new look.
Chris Wright & Mark Catterall
Troubled Italian luxury-car maker Isotta Fraschini was declared bankrupt in mid-July, suppliers told Automotive News Europe.
The attempt by a group of investors to relaunch the prestigious Italian nameplate began with the unveiling of the Audi A8-based T8 roadster at the March 1996 Geneva auto show. The car never entered production.
At the Paris auto show in October 1998, Isotta showed a revised T8 roadster and a styling model of a V-12-powered coupe, called the T12.
In May of this year, Isotta announced that T8 production would begin in September, powered by a Ford 4.0-liter V-8 engine, after Audi AG canceled the original supply contract signed in 1995.
Jaguar will be the performance brand in Ford's new Premier Automotive Group luxury family. All the news on the Jaguar stand was designed to enhance the marque's performance image.
On the product side, Jaguar will offer the new 'R' brand of performance options. R-brand accessories are being developed by Jaguar Special Vehicle Operations.(see story on page 32).
Jaguar surprised no one by announcing its plans to participate in Formula One racing next year.
Neil Ressler, Ford vice president and chief technical officer, said Jaguar input into the Formula One program would begin immediately.
Hyundai and Kia might be rationalizing their platforms, but Kia appears to have a proliferation of minivans at the moment.
Kia's Frankfurt stand displayed three variations on the minivan theme - the Chrysler Voyager-sized Carnival; the much smaller Carens; and the Joice, which is sandwiched somewhere in between.
The mood on the Kia stand was buoyant. The Korean carmaker established its European headquarters in Bremen in 1997, which gives it a real presence in Germany.
Kia was launched in Germany six years ago. It had a record month there in July, with more than 2,000 new registrations and a market share of 0.7 percent. Kia is on course to achieve its target of 20,000 sales in Germany this year.
Audi AG is giving plenty of operational freedom to its exotic car subsidiary, Automobili Lamborghini SpA.
When Audi approved the styling of the Diablo successor, codenamed L147, Lamborghini's new top management wasn't satisfied. It decided it wanted to stage clinics to evaluate the new car's impact.
'If Lamborghini decides the car we approved needs modifications, it can do them,' said Audi Chairman Franz-Josef Paefgen.
He said Audi won't have any direct input in Lamborghini's day-to-day operations.
'Lamborghini has to remain truly Italian,' said Paefgen. 'I have queues of Audi engineers who want to work at Lamborghini, but I say no to everyone.'
Lamborghini will build and sell 260 units this year, up 22 percent on 1998. The USA will remain the biggest market with sales of over 100 units. Lamborghini plans similar volumes in 2000, but revenues will rise thanks to the introduction of the pricier Diablo GT.
Unveiled in its final form at the Frankfurt show, the GT features an engine upgraded to 6.0-liters and 575hp. With a top speed of 338 kph, the Diablo GT is the fastest production car on the market, according to Lamborghini.
The Diablo GT goes on sale in November. Lamborghini will make a closed run of 80 units.
From 1999-2003, Lamborghini will invest around DM300 million (euro 155million) to improve its engineering and production facilities at Sant'Agata Bolognese, near Modena, Italy.
The plan includes two brand new models: the Diablo successor, due in late 2001, and a car code named L140.
Fiat Auto said it has received 15,000 dealer orders for the new Lancia Lybra. Sales started in Italy on September 18, and the car should be available in other left-hand-drive European markets by November. Right-hand-drive versions are not planned.
Fiat Auto managing director Roberto Testore said he expects between 60,000-70,000 Lybra sales in 2000. He also confirmed that a radically-styled replacement for the medium-luxury Kappa will be launched in 2001.
The Maserati 3200 Spider will debut in 2001 in the USA before being offered in other markets in the rest of the world.
'US sales are crucial for the 3200 Spider,' said Ferrari's sales director Andrea Zappia, who also is responsible for Maserati operations. 'North America should account for 60 percent of the new Spider's sales, but we won't re-enter the US market until it is ready.' Maserati abandoned the US market in the early 1980s.
Maserati's four-seat 3200 GT coupe was launched in Europe early this year. The coupe and the two-seat 3200 Spider were styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign. The cars share Maserati's revamped 3.2-liter, 48-valve, 370hp twin-turbo engine.
Maserati said it is planning to replace its four-door, five-seat Quattroporte Evoluzione sports sedan in 2003. This will be the fifth edition of the Quattroporte flagship, which has changed designer with every edition. After Frua, Bertone, Giugiaro-ItalDesign and Marcello Gandini, the new car will be styled by Pininfarina.
Maserati will sell 2,000 units this year - a big improvement over 1998, when fewer than 700 units were sold. Annual sales of 6,000 are planned by 2003.
Matra Automobile plans a major comeback at the Paris auto show in October 2000.
'We will show a vehicle there,' said Philippe Guédon, Matra Automobile chairman, who gave no further details. According to industry sources, the car could be an upper-range minivan. It would be badged Matra and positioned above the successor to the current Espace. The next-generation Espace will be made by Renault and is due for launch in 2003. Matra has not made and sold cars under its own name since the launch of Espace in 1984.
Meanwhile, Matra is preparing to build the top-of-the-range Avantime for Renault. Production is due to start in May 2000. Forty-five units per day are planned in a first stage. The car will go on sale the following September.
'There are two production lines in Romorantin (Matra's French plant), and we'll put the Avantime on one,' said Guedon. 'The Avantime should be successful but we don't want to take that for granted.'
Matra is still benefiting from the success of the Espace that it builds for Renault. More than 75,000 units will be sold this year.
Mazda continued its European comeback with the presentation of two concept cars that looked ready for production. The Nextourer and the Neospace, both built on existing platforms, are full of ideas for maximizing room and comfort.
The Nextourer has a 3.0-liter V-6 engine and sits on the platform of the 626. The Neospace is powered by Mazda's new 1.5-liter direct-injection gasoline engine. Mazda may show a production version of one of the cars at the Tokyo auto show in October, say sources.
Ford is poised to take over Mazda distribution in Italy. Ford Italia SpA, a fully owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Co. based in Rome, is expected to announce in October the creation of Mazda Italia SpA. The new unit is to be based in Rome on Ford Italia premises. It is to be run by Antonio Garofano, Ford Italia's former chief finance officer.
Mazda Italia will begin operating in early 2000, taking over the distribution rights for Italy currently owned by Sidauto, a private importer in Turin. This will be the first case in western Europe of Mazda operations being run through the local Ford subsidiary. Ford owns 25 percent of Mazda Motors of Japan. It also has management control.
Mercedes-Benz is testing showgoers' reaction to the Vision SLR roadster to decide whether the car will go into production.
The SLR coupe, on which the new convertible supercar is based, will be built at McLaren in England. A production decision on the Vision SLR Roadster is likely by the end of this year.
The SLR roadster features a transparent textile roof which allows light to pass through. The roof gives passengers an airy, open-top feeling even when closed.
The SLR roadster features an electro-hydraulic brake system - a first for a high-performance model, according to Mercedes-Benz. The car is equipped with a 5.5-liter V-8 engine from in-house tuner AMG that delivers 557hp and 720Nm of torque. Top speed is 320 kph, and the 0-100 kph sprint takes 4.2 seconds.
Away from the showstopping SLR roadster, Mercedes extended the S-class engine lineup. The range now includes the new 6.0-liter V-12 that delivers 367hp and 530Nm of torque. It undercuts the emission limits of the EU-4 legislation that will come into force in 2005. The engine will be added to the S-class range from January 2000. It will be followed in June by the S400 CDI V-8 diesel engine with common-rail direct injection. The 3.2-liter, six-cylinder S320 CDI will become available in Europe this October.
The new CL 500 coupe will also be launched that month, followed by the CL 600 in December. Two more versions of the M-class are due: the ML 270 CDI (163hp, 320Nm) exclusively for European markets; and the ML 55 AMG with an 347hp V-8 engine.
The Pajero Pinin, Mitsubishi's Italian-built compact sport-utility, made its public debut. The Pinin is based on Japan's Pajero Io, with subtle design changes made by Pininfarina of Turin. Mitsubishi is forecasting European sales of about 11,000 Pajero Pinins this year.
Also shown were two so-called SUW (sports-utility wagon) studies. One featured a GDI hybrid engine; the other was equipped with Mitsubishi's first small 1.1-liter GDI unit, linked to an energy-saving stop-start system. Both are realistic options for a so-called 'three-liter' car.
'Mitsubishi might reveal more details about possible production (of the studies) at October's Tokyo auto show,' said Hans Tolenaar, vice president of Mitsubishi Europe.
In line with Mitsubishi's energy-saving strategy, the company also showed an experimental GDI powertrain with continuously-variable transmission, additional electric motor, and an energy-saving stop-start system. The company claims it offers a 30 percent reduction in fuel consumption.
Wim Oude Weernink