1999 Geneva Motor Show Page 2

March 14, 1999

BUGATTI FOR REAL? The Bugatti EB218 concept car developed by Volkswagen and ItalDesign's Giugiaro has four doors, while the EB118 shown at the Paris show last fall has two. Another big difference in the cars, said VW body engineer Hans-Martin Lent-Philipps, is that the EB218 is a real car. When VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech started the EB118 in Paris, it growled to life with a minor cloud of blue exhaust. Still, from an engineering point of view, "that car was just a concept," Lent-Philipps said. The EB218's V-18 engine stayed off, but the car underneath is engineered for real life. And that wasn't easy. "With the big wheels and big engine, there's no space," the engineer said. "It's harder to make the Bugatti than the Lupo." — WD

LAMBO GIVES DIABLO GT TREATMENT. Lamborghini’s new, very high-performance car will only be produced in a limited edition. Only 80 Diablo GTs will leave the factory of Sant’Agata Bolognese in Italy this year, the company said. The new Diablo GT that was first shown in Geneva is developed based on the experiences with the GT2 racecar. The Diablo GT is driveable on public roads and is homologated in most countries for racing. The new Lambo is the fastest production car in the world, with a top speed of 338 km/h (210 mph). Its new 6.0-liter V-12 engine produces 575 hp at 7300 rpm and has a max torque of 465 foot-pounds at 5500 rpm. Among other features, the GT has a multithrottle intake manifold, new intake and exhaust camshafts, intake variable valve timing and titanium connecting rods. — HH

DB7 Vantage Aston Martin

DB7 Vantage Aston Martin

A BETTER VANTAGE. James Bond, eat your heart out. The legendary British spy may just want to trade in his BMW now that Aston Martin has unveiled its newest model, the DB7 Vantage. "It returns Aston Martin to what we know best: power and performance," said Chairman Bob Dover to a crowd of fawning journalists. Under the hood of an otherwise conventional DB7, Aston packs in its first-ever V-12, a 6.0-liter powerplant pumping out a tire-spinning 420 horsepower. With a stick, the car races from 0-100 kph (0-62.5 mph) in 5.0 seconds. The automatic edition is a tenth of a second slower. "I think this car will do well," Dover declared in typical British understatement — with or without a check from a certain Bond. James Bond. — PAE

TOYOTA EYES THE TOP. Toyota Motor Corp. plans a third factory in Europe before 2005. The new chief executive of Toyota Motor Europe, Akira Imai, a straight-talking, ambitious businessman, said the new factory would probably be in Eastern Europe, possibly in the Balkans. It will be needed because he wants to raise production in Europe from 175,000 last year to 800,000 by 2005. "I want to be in the top five or six in Europe," Imai said in an interview. That means he plans to grow bigger than one or two native Europeans: one of the Big Six that now include Volkswagen, Ford, Opel/Vauxhall, Fiat, Renault and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen. Can Toyota get ahead of Ford to be No. 2 during his career? "Yes," Imai said. "Right now, Toyota produces almost 5 million cars. Daihatsu is producing about 650,000, so we are closer to 6 million. To take the same as GM or Ford or Volkswagen as a group, we can achieve that easily." — WD

TOUGH TIMES. Add it all up, and you’ll find that at least some European automakers are going to fall far short of their goals in the coming year. VW board member Robert Buechelhofer told Bloomberg news service he would consider it an "extraordinary success" if VW manages to increase sales and production this year. VW last month indicated fourth-quarter earnings rose 45 percent — but that was off from the third quarter, and the carmaker warned it will be "difficult" to raise earnings in 1999. — PAE

CRUISIN’ GENEVA. European buyers got their first look at the Chrysler PT Cruiser, the "too-cool-to-categorize" small car that made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show last January. Looking to many like a downsized London Taxi, the Cruiser is one of several new segmentbusters — including the Opel Zafira — designed to appeal in a market where space and fuel are at a premium. The Cruiser’s interior layout and foldable/removable seats allow it to be configured for anywhere from one to five passengers. DaimlerChrysler officials say the vehicle will go on sale in Europe about a year from now, shortly after its American debut. It could ultimately account for as much as half the total volume for Chrysler-branded products. But company officials also hint they may be working on a new sedan that would specifically be targeted for the European market. — PAE

EURASIAN MOTORS? With DaimlerChrysler pulling itself out of the running, French automaker Renault appears to have a clear shot at completing a deal with troubled Nissan Motor Corp. "We're pursuing a thorough study," Renault Chairman Louis Schweitzer said following word of DaimlerChrysler’s decision. "We’ve always said that this represents an opportunity but is also something that wasn't easy to do." While Schweitzer declined to set out a timetable, industry sources suggest that both Renault and Nissan would like to wrap up their talks by late March, before the end of the Japanese fiscal year. Meanwhile, Renault officials reported their efforts to acquire the Romanian carmaker Dacia should be wrapped up by mid-April. "We're not expecting any more hurdles, Renault Executive Vice President Georges Douin told Reuters news service in an interview. — PAE

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