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2003 Frankfurt Show, Part I


2004 Aston Martin DB9

2004 Aston Martin DB9

2003 Frankfurt Auto Show Index by TCC Team (9/8/2003)

Volvo S40: Small Isn’t Less

2005 Volvo S40

2005 Volvo S40

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Despite its diminutive dimensions, almost two inches shorter than the car it replaces, Volvo’s new S40 is a sedan for those who want more, declared the automaker’s CEO, Hans-Olov Olsson. “They don’t compromise much. They might go smaller, but they don’t want less.” The second-generation S40 shares the same “architecture,” meaning many of its basic components, with the new Mazda3, but Volvo’s offering will come loaded with plenty of premium features, from its integrated phone to stability control. Long known for its basic, boxy designs, the new subcompact boasts a surprisingly muscular and aggressive stance, clearly influenced by the successful XC90 crossover vehicle. The interior, meanwhile, has the sort of simple yet elegant feel of a B&O audio system, and boasts some interesting innovations, such as the Aqua Ice interior option, which features a lightly tinted clear plastic skin over the center stack allowing you to see the electro-mechanical guts of the climate and audio systems. “If you want to be innovative, there’s no use looking at what the competition is doing,” designer Henrik Otto explained, during a preview of what’s to come at the Frankfurt Motor Show. “You need to look at what they aren’t doing or using.” As one would expect from Volvo, the automaker promises the S40 will be at the top of its category in terms of safety. Among its design features: the use of four separate grades of steel to help manage crash load forces. Ultimately, expect a wide range of four- and five-cylinder engines, and a diesel. All-wheel drive will be added next year. The new S40 will start rolling into dealer showrooms late this year. Volvo hopes to sell around 70,000 a year, with a base price of 20,000 Euros.

Spy Shots: 2005 Ford Focus by Hans Lehmann/Hidden Image (9/8/2003)
Europe gets a refresher course in space.

Mazda3 Proof of New Strategy?

2005 Mazda3

2005 Mazda3

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The new Mazda3 sedan and five-door wagon will go on sale in Europe this month, then roll out in the U.S. and Japan. The “C-class” Mazda was designed to present a more up-market feel than its competitors, part of the automaker’s strategy to move out of the Japanese second tier. “Arguably, it may be the most important launch” of several recent products to come from Mazda, according to the automaker’s global product development chief, Joe Bakaj. The U.S. introduction is scheduled for late November or early December, and once it hits stride, Mazda is hoping the new car will generate at least 70,000 sales annually. The Mazda3 is yet another spin-off of Ford Motor Co.’s new global C1 platform, which is also being used for products like Ford European crossover vehicle, the C-Max, as well as the Volvo S40. But company officials stress that unlike past efforts to create common global platforms, their new “architecture” strategy permits them to sharply differentiate individual vehicles so that customers won’t even recognize they come from the same family.

Ford of Europe Promising Better Results

Deep and unexpected losses at Ford’s European subsidiary have been an unwelcome setback to the troubled number two automaker, raising questions about the strategy behind Europe’s aggressive cost-cutting and product development. With the market in turmoil, tactics have to change, but the strategy will remain in place, according to David Thursfield, who serves multiple roles as Ford’s worldwide purchasing chief and European czar. Thursfield told TheCarConnection that Ford has largely tapped out the savings it can achieve by cutting fixed costs – and has no plans for further production cuts. But he believes there are savings still to be found through such things as platform sharing. The new C1 platform, used by products like the Volvo S40, Mazda3, and Ford C-Max provides a good example, helping cut development costs alone by “at least” ten percent, according to Thursfield. The blunt-talking executive insisted things should start turning around in the third quarter of 2003, and show “a substantial improvement in our performance in the fourth quarter.” While he declined to discuss specific targets, Thursfield suggested he “would be disappointed” if Ford of Europe wasn’t back in the black during the final three months of this year.


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