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2000 Paris Auto Show, Part I Page 2


 

2001 Mercedes C-Class 230 rear

2001 Mercedes C-Class 230 rear

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OLYMPIAN EFFORT. Drawing comparisons with the Olympic athletes performing in Sydney, Mercedes-Benz officials unveiled the newest version of their recently-redesigned C-Class. The C Coupe is just a touch shorter and lower than the C-Class sedan, which was launched earlier in the year. "It takes an Olympic sprinter as a design theme," suggested Mercedes’ product development chief, Juergen Hubbert. But observers may be surprised by some of the very non-traditional design cues, such as the coupe’s rear end, which reminded some Paris observers of a Japanese sports car. The new 2-door features an optional "panoramic" sliding roof that’s about a third bigger than a conventional sunroof, and which can be operated by remote control. There will be four engines available in the European edition, though likely only two will make it to the States. Look for a Spring ’01 roll-out and a price about $1000 below that of the new C-Class sedan.

 

2000 Mercedes Smart Coupe v1 concept

2000 Mercedes Smart Coupe v1 concept

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A SMART IDEA? After its initially slow launch, Mercedes’ Smart Car subsidiary finally seems to be finding a market among motorists who want something small and easy to handle on crowded European streets. The Smart line-up is slowly starting to grow, with a ragtop added to the original City Coupe. And a 2-seat roadster is due out in 2003. It may be joined by the Smart Coupe shown in Paris, suggested the division’s chief, Andreas Renschler. The two vehicles would share the same platform, he stressed, minimizing the cost of adding the new vehicle to the Smart line-up. Officially, Smart is being sold in eight countries right now, though Renschler admitted it’s now on the gray market in 58 countries. There’ve been reports the U.S. might be added to the list, but there are no plans currently, he emphasized. Look for a right-hand version of the existing Smart cars to make a formal debut in the U.K. and Japan, though, before year’s end. Despite the slow roll-out and questions about Smart’s long-term future, Renschler insisted that, if anything, the French-based operation is going to run out of capacity soon—about 100,000 units a year as currently set up.

 

2001 Mini Cooper

2001 Mini Cooper

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MINI ME? Nothing, it seems, can stop the new Mini from making it to market by the Summer of next year. The legendary micro-car is the only piece of its ill-fated Rover acquisition that remains in the BMW portfolio. The long-awaited update will make its initial debut in Great Britain, then began a fast global roll-out. The U.S. version will launch in March of 2002, though American motorists will only get the upgraded Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S editions. The base model is expected to pump out around 115 horsepower, quite a bit considering its final weight will be just over 2200 pounds. In a surprising move, BMW offered a hint of Mini variants to come, posting internal sketches of several possible future models, including a convertible, and even a pickup. Global capacity will be 100,000 a year, and plans call for sales of around 20,000 annually in America. The Mini has always been a steadier seller in Europe, though it’s anyone’s guess if it will really prove successful State-side. Only about 10,000 officially made it to American shores in the 1960s, but there remains a strong fascination with the tiny little car, with 15 Mini car clubs operating in the U.S. BMW expects to sell Mini through its own distribution channel.


 
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