2005 Geneva Motor Show Index by TCC Team (2/13/2005)
GM Launching Three-Day Test Drives in
General Motors will make 35,000 Opel vehicles available for three-day test drives through dealerships in 40 countries across Europe, announced GM Europe chairman Fritz Henderson. Potential customers will be able to take the vehicles home, “and drive them as if the vehicles were their own,” he added, during a presentation at the Geneva Motor Show. The campaign will run for three months, though it will launch at different times across the continent. The campaign is designed to win over a new generation of buyers, said Henderson, and reflects the challenge Opel has had breaking through to those who normally ignore the brand. “We have to work to do to elevate Opel’s image to match the quality of its products,” he acknowledged. Henderson insisted that Opel will not take a big financial hit from the three-day test drive program because it is designed to operate in lieu of a big increase in incentives. Opel has already been testing the new program in its home market of Germany, and has so far logged 30,000 test drives.
Smart Expands Brabus Offerings
2005 Smart forfour BrabusEnlarge Photo
Alfa, Maserati Won’t Blur, Says Kalbfell
2005 Pininfarina Maserati BirdcageEnlarge Photo
Though they may now share one boss, don’t expect Alfa Romeo and Maserati to lose their individual brand identities, asserted CEO Karl-Heinz Kalbfell in an interview with TheCarConnection.com. Last month’s decision to strip Maserati away from Ferrari and merge it in with Fiat’s Alfa arm came as one of a series of surprises following Fiat’s $2 billion settlement with General Motors. Originally intended to help Ferrari grow revenues without diluting its own brand, Maserati will now help in the hoped-for revival of long-struggling Alfa, said Kalbfell.
Maserati, he noted, will retain a reasonably degree of autonomy. It will remain based in its ancestral home of Modena, Italy, and will continue to work with Ferrari’s designers and engineers. But Maserati, Kalbfell added, “may enter new product categories and so it would need additional resources.” There will almost certainly be ways for Alfa and Maserati to share, the CEO said, but he intends to ensure that this doesn’t result in so-called “badge-engineered” products that are little more than clones with different sheetmetal skins. The challenge is to maintain a balance between cost and brand DNA, said the former Volkswagen senior executive, noting that VW is an example of how sharing platforms can work — or cause problems.