Sponsors of TCC's 2001
Geneva Motor Show coverage
BMW CEO Joachim Milberg
BMW CEO Joachim MilbergEnlarge Photo
ONE-SERIES UPSMANSHIP. BMW will roll out a raft of new product in the coming months, including a new 3-Series Compact currently slated for sale just about everywhere but the United States. It’s also adding a sequentially shifted manual transmission for the high-performance M3. But the biggest news the Bavarian automaker is making in Geneva concerns two vehicles that won’t hit the road until sometime around 2004. At the low end, there’s the 1-Series, which will be sized to compete with high-end vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. BMW also intends to revive the dormant 6-Series nameplate, which Chief Executive Joachim Milberg says will be applied to an upmarket coupe—“which is also slated to be offered in a convertible version.” Look for a base price of around $55,000 for the 6-Series Coupe, a source suggested.
LUXURY FOR THE MASSES? In contrast to sluggish sales of mass market vehicles in the U.S. and Europe, luxury brands continue to post strong sales. Nowhere is that more obvious—or surprising—than in Germany, where Mercedes-Benz actually outsold General Motors’ Opel division in January. And BMW came close to topping Ford sales. “One month does not a year make,” cautioned Ford’s European chairman, Nick Scheele, but he admitted the automaker is struggling to reverse several years of declining volume. Observers suggest that despite declines in global stock markets, upscale buyers continue to demand the best, while the general consumer is often putting a new car purchase on hold while waiting to see whether economic conditions turn around.
2001 Opel Astra X-treme concept
2001 Opel Astra X-treme conceptEnlarge Photo
X-TREME OPEL. That’s the new Astra Coupe OPC X-treme, a high-performance compact that took its bow in Geneva along with a sporty OPC version of the Zafira people mover. The Zafira has a date with an assembly line, and will enter production later this year. Its 2.0-liter turbo will push it to a top speed of 220 kph (138 mph). Opel has plenty of product coming to market in an effort to battle back a sharp decline in share and profits—last year’s $250 million loss “is not a result we’re proud of,” said GM’s European chief, Mike Burns. Among the new entries is the Astra Cabrio, a ragtop version of the popular coupe that will go for less than $20,000 in most European markets. Though GM insists its European operations are on the comeback trail, Burns acknowledged it “isn’t going to be easy,” especially considering the flood of product being launched by the competition.
2001 Ford ST Contour concept
2001 Ford ST Contour conceptEnlarge Photo
TRANSFORMATION STRATEGY. Ford of Europe intends to roll out 45 new products between 2000 and 2005—nine this year alone—in what the unit’s president, David Thursfield, dubs a “transformation strategy.” Look for an emphasis on styling and performance, he suggested, pointing to two concept vehicles unveiled in Geneva. The ST Contour Concept is a thinly disguised version of a high-performance Mondeo due out later this year. It features a lowered body and some sexy new sheet metal, as well as a 220-hp Duratec V-6. The production Mondeo 220 will be out later this year.
2001 Ford Street Car concept
2001 Ford Street Car conceptEnlarge Photo
But potential customers will have to wait until 2003 for the highway version of the StreetKa Concept. “It will be faithful to the spirit of the concept,” promised European product chief Martin Leach. The limited-edition vehicle is being developed as part of a new joint venture between Ford and the legendary Italian Pininfarina family.