The Panda is one of Europe
’s most popular small cars. It’s available with a 1.0- or a 1.2-liter gasoline engine, and is a stylish, capable, and award-winning supermini. But it’s always lacked that extra something to make it more sporty. Later this year that will change; Fiat has squeezed a 1.4-liter gasoline engine under the tiny hood to create the catchily named Panda 100-hp. It’s still not exactly a rocket ship – the 0-60 mph time is 9.5 seconds – but it’s better than anything that’s come before. External changes include a chrome spoiler, revised bumpers and grille, and 15-inch alloys. A special launch pack includes red brake callipers, sporty foot pedals, and special interior mats. Someone has thought it clever to call that the “Pandemonio.”
The award for the Paris Motor Show’s strangest vehicle also goes to Fiat. The new Panda was balanced on the back of a commercial vehicle concept called the Ducato Truckster. Ducato is a light van in Europe
, and this wacky gray version with gullwing doors and racing seats was created to promote launch of an all-new model later this month.
HUMMER Expanding in Europe – Slowly
France may seem a strange place to be talking about the future of a brand as American as HUMMER. But GM vice-president Bob Lutz was happy to chat about new products as he cut the ribbon on Europe’s first Authentic HUMMER Center (AHC).
“It’s clear that as the portfolio expands, and it must, it will head into smaller segments than the H3. That’s still a very large car in some markets. To get the maximum out of the brand and guarantee profitability we have to find ways to get a smaller, more efficient vehicle into showrooms.”
Lutz even hinted that the company may be willing to sacrifice some of the HUMMER’s legendary capability in a bid to keep gasoline consumption down. “We will stay with extreme off-road ability, but we have to create something like an H5 or H6 – and these are cars that are not even in anyone’s imagination at the moment – which will have better fuel efficiency than before. But they still have to have more off-road ability than anything else in the class.”
He also gave clues about another possible direction the firm might take, saying: “We don’t comment on future product before it’s launched but we’re mindful of the trend in pickup trucks at the moment.”
The continent’s first AHC is 15 miles south of central Paris, but others will follow soon as the brand is officially launched here later this year. London has already been identified as a target city. Two smaller types of sales outlets will also appear – galleries, selling 25-100 HUMMERs per year, and dealerships, shifting up to 300.