2001 Geneva Show, Part III

March 4, 2001


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Geneva Motor Show coverage

 

2002 Volkswagen Beetle RSE

2002 Volkswagen Beetle RSE

BUG OUT. The Volkswagen Beetle RSE will be likely to come as a surprise, especially if you’re sitting next to it at a stoplight. The highest-performance New Beetle yet, it will come with a 225-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 up-front, mated to VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. The RSE’s suspension has been performance-tuned to match, and there are new tires and wheels, as well as distinctive front and rear spoilers and bodywork. The RSE interior features nickel, aluminum and carbon fiber touches designed to distinguish it from more run-of-the-mill Beetles. VW claims the RSE can race from 0-100 kph (0-62.5 mph) in just 6.5 seconds. For the moment, the German automaker plans to produce just 250 Beetle RSEs, but Volkswagen has been known to respond favorably to strong consumer demand.

2001 Bugatti Veyron concept

2001 Bugatti Veyron concept

BESPOKE BUGATTI. After several years of speculation, VW has confirmed it will go to market with the reborn Bugatti brand. Due to market in mid-2003, “we’re going to build a sports car along the lines of” the Veyron sports car shown in Geneva, said the automaker’s George Keller. Better start saving if you like what you see, for Keller dryly notes it “probably will be the most expensive car in the world.” Look for a price tag starting at $750,000 and up, for Bugatti expects to customize just about every detail, as long as it doesn’t compromise safety and emissions standards. The production model “will include everything possible” when it comes to high-tech hardware, from onboard telematics systems to a Formula 1-style carbon-fiber body. But performance will rule, the planned Bugatti expected to feature a 1000-horsepower, 16-cylinder engine.

FAILURE ISN’T AN OPTION. To put it bluntly, there are plenty of skeptics concerned  that Chrysler simply has to stretch too far to achieve its promised turnaround. “The targets are demanding; challenging for the whole organization,” acknowledged Wolfgang Bernhard, COO of the troubled Chrysler Group. But they are completely do-able, he declared during an interview with TheCarConnection.com. “We would not put out a plan with so many milestones if we were not highly confident,” he stressed. “Missing the target is not an option.” How well the company is doing depends on whether you see the glass as half-empty or half-full, for according to Bernhard, half of Chrysler’s suppliers have now agreed to meet the five-percent cost-cutting target announced last December.  

Audi W-12 engine

Audi W-12 engine

W, AS IN WOW. Considering European gas prices can run over $4 a gallon in some countries, it’s not surprising that diesel engines were big in Geneva. Ford, for example, noted diesels now account for a third of its total sales—and that share is growing. But there were plenty of big powertrains vying for attention at the Salon de l’Automobile, including Audi’s unusual W-12 design. Arranged in three banks of four cylinders, the W-12 is unusually compact—indeed, it’s shorter than a conventional in-line six. The 6.0-liter engine will go into a special “L” version of Audi’s top-of-the-line A8.  

2001 Mazda MX Tourer concept

2001 Mazda MX Tourer concept

MAZDA TAKES A TOURER. Wonder what the next-generation Mazda 626 might look like? The MX Sport Tourer appears to provide a solid hint of what will be coming in the form of a tall roof wagon/crossover vehicle. Its mechanicals will be shared with a sedan and hatchback, as well. Mazda apparently intends to target the European market with the production Tourer, but with growing signs of a resurgence in the U.S. wagon and hatchback markets, Ford Motor Co.’s Japanese partner may also seek to ship some to the States as well.  

DOUBLE-DEALING. General Motors announced a pair of new deals during the Geneva press preview that should help expand its share in the former Soviet Bloc, as well as the global entry-luxe segment. The Detroit-based automaker intends to invest $100 million as part of a three-way partnership with Russian carmaker AvtoVAZ; The goal is to produce 75,000 Niva sport-utility vehicles a year, of which some will likely be sold in Western Europe, as well as Russia and other former Soviet states, said Mike Burns, head of GM Europe. The new Niva should cost less than $8000 and use engines produced through the new GM-Fiat joint ventures. Meanwhile, the world’s largest carmaker could be pumping more than $500 million annually into Saab Automobile over the next five years in an effort to double the Swedish brand’s currently modest volumes. Saab President Peter Augustsson described the investment as “a pretty dramatic step,” and suggested his company could be selling as many as 250,000 cars by 2006.

For more Geneva Show coverage, click here .

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