Index: 2002 Geneva Motor Show by TCC Team (3/5/2002)
2004 Chrysler CrossfireEnlarge Photo
CRUISER CABRIO AND CROSSFIRE GOING
Chrysler is betting it can increase global sales sharply when it rolls out its new Crossfire sports car and the ragtop version of its PT Cruiser. That’s one reason the automaker is going with the European-style name, Cruiser Cabrio, rather than the more American “convertible,” explains marketing chief Jim Schroer. Look for the Cabrio to sell somewhere upwards of 30,000 units a year, insiders hint, with a strong market projected in Europe. Meanwhile, Chrysler revealed that it plans to produce 20,000 Crossfires a year—though it could increase volume a bit if demand is strong. About 15% of those are earmarked for outside North America. The Cruiser Cabrio “will really help us with younger buyers” all over the world, noted Schroer. For the moment, Chrysler will only confirm plans to use the normally aspirated, 2.2-liter engine in the Cabrio. But a GT version “would be a good idea to look at,” Schroer added. Indeed, a version of the Cabrio using the upcoming, turbocharged GT engine may show up on the Chrysler stand at the New York Auto Show later this month.
2003 Ford FusionEnlarge Photo
FORD FUSION SLATED FOR U.S. SHOWROOMS
Ford Motor Co. unveiled the latest in a steady stream of new products on Tuesday. The Fusion is a so-called “urban activity vehicle,” designed to deliver many of the advantages of a sport-ute in a package more suited to the tight city streets of Europe. “People want small vehicles that don’t make them feel vulnerable,” declared European product development chief Martin Leach. Thought the tall wagon measures just over 13 feet nose-to-tail, it appears larger, primarily because of its height and it adds the higher seating position of an SUV. Ford is betting Fusion’s huge cargo compartment, five-seat design and Intelligent Protection System will be a lure for younger buyers. Production in Europe begins later this year, and shortly afterwards, Fusion will roll down the new and highly efficient assembly line Ford is building in Bahia, Brazil. Expected to be the most efficient factory in the Ford empire, Bahia will produce a version of the Fusion for the U.S. with an introduction date set for early 2004.
IS MONDEO NEXT?
Ford is “looking at our entire European lineup to see what is applicable to North America,” said CEO Bill Ford. It’s been a number of years since Ford’s European assembly plants shipped vehicles to the States. But lopsided exchange rates are certainly reason to reconsider that option. Among the more likely products to cross the Atlantic is the Mondeo, the latest generation of what Ford once called its “world car.” The idea was scrapped awhile back, but said Ford, “we’re looking again at it.”
TALL AND SMALL ALL OVER GENEVA
The Fusion is just one in a flood of so-called “tall” B-class vehicles hitting the road in Europe. Measuring around 13-14 feet long, these vehicles are well suited to European roads, but they provide a distinct advantage over more conventional B-cars, such as the Ford Fiesta and Citroen C3. Their higher rooflines allow for more innovative packaging and that translates into seating for at least five adult passengers, along with plenty of cargo space. Hyundai, with its new Getz, was one of several other manufacturers serving up a B-wagon at the Geneva show, while Mazda had a concept vehicle on display, the MX Sport Runabout, and even more models are on the way. Until recently, such vehicles have found little demand on the other side of the Atlantic, but there may be a new market developing in the U.S. for such vehicles, industry officials suggested. The apparent demand for the new Mini in the States is forcing manufacturers to take a closer look at their options. Nissan is reportedly ready to import a version of its March minicar, and Ford, as noted, will be bringing a version of the Fusion. “I think it’s just a matter of time,” said Ford’s Phil Martens, before rising fuel prices, government regulation or other factors shift American market trends, and then companies like Ford “will need small cars.”