Index: 2002 Geneva Motor Show by TCC Team (3/5/2002)
Maybach under glass
HOW HIGH IS TOO HIGH FOR LUXURY MARQUES
This year’s Geneva Motor Show might be described as the battle of the ultra-luxury brands. The partial unveiling of the new DaimlerChrysler Maybach brand will be followed on Wednesday with a sneak peek for a few journalists—including TheCarConnection—of the new Bentley GT Coupe. Though priced significantly below existing Bentley models, at around $150,000, the Coupe will take aim at the car market’s most elite buyers: BMW is set to reveal an all-new version of the Rolls-Royce by around year’s end, and there are plenty of other new top-end models, ranging from the Volkswagen Phaeton to the Aston Martin Vanquish, hoping to appear to the most discriminating of car buyers. Most are aiming at low volumes. Maybach is likely to seek only a few hundred customers a year. Bentley hopes to sell several thousand GT Coupes. Nonetheless, not everyone is convinced there’s enough of a market. “Everybody wanted a piece of the action,” following the last economic boom, suggested Ferrari’s North American CEO Stuart Robinson. And so far, “the luxury market (has proven) buoyant despite the world’s economic downturn.” But Robinson admitted fearing “without a doubt, not all of these players will succeed.”
2002 Alfa Romeo Brera concept
ITALDESIGN ROLLS OUT PROTOTYPE ALFA
The Brera is a blend of high style and high tech and may one day grace an Alfa Romeo assembly line. The show car was produced for Alfa by the Ital Design team. The 2+2 could be manufactured in “any technology, carbon fiber, aluminum or plastic,” noted ID chief of design Fabrizio Giugiaro. Inside, the car uses leather to soften the look of its machined aluminum. A wide center console separates the passengers, who can entertain themselves with a new and unusual theater sound system. Under the hood, the Brera is powered by a 4.0-liter, 400-horsepower V-8 mated to a six-speed sequential gearbox.
2003 Opel Vectra
GM EUROPE TO DIVIDE AND CONQUER
General Motors’ European subsidiary hopes to increase share and rebuild its sagging bottom line with a new, three-tiered product strategy. Forty percent of new models will be relatively traditional in design, such as the newly redesigned Vectra, according to GME chief Carl-Peter Forster. Another 40 percent will be so-called “innovative” vehicles, like the Vectra-based MPV, the Zafira. The remaining 20 percent will be niche products, such as the go-kart-like Opel Speedster. Meanwhile, Forster noted that GME’s plans to switch to a build-to-order model remains on track. Right now, BTO accounts for 70 percent of Zafira sales and with the new Vectra, it will make up 50 percent of volume in Great Britain and Germany. Right now, Forster added, it is taking GME about 2.5 to 3.0 weeks to complete a sale from the time the order is received until the customer takes delivery.
2003 Audi RS6
AUDI’S RS6 ROCKET
Audi will bring the sedan version of the new RS6 high-performance sedan to the States, company officials revealed. The new model boasts a 450-horsepower, bi-turbo version of Audi’s 4.2-liter V-8, making it “the most powerful station wagon in the world,” according to spokesman Axel Catton. The package will launch the Avant version from 0-100 km/h (62.5 mph) in just 4.9 seconds, and hit 200 kph in 18 seconds. Despite growing U.S. wagon sales, Audi currently plans to import only the sedan version. The European intro is scheduled for midway through the 2002 calendar year, while the American debut is penciled in on the calendar for sometime in early 2003.
2002 BMW CS1 concept
BMW’S CS1 OFFERS GLIMPSE OF FUTURE
It’s not often you have to open a zipper to work under a car’s hood. But there are plenty of unusual features found on the prototype BMW CS1 cabrio. “The material is the message,” explains chief of design Chris Bangle. In the passenger compartment, that means an assortment of leather, metal and plastic pieces that redefine form and function. To open the glovebox, for example, one pulls down a piece of leather, much like opening a coin purse. Much of the engine compartment is concealed by high-temperature fabric with images of the engine and other pieces of hardware screened onto it. To open the radiator cap, a motorist has to first open a zipper over the cap. While this and some of the other, more fanciful touches aren’t likely to show up on a production vehicle any time soon, Bangle noted that “this is very close” in basic design to the upcoming 1-Series minicar BMW is developing.
2003 Lancia Phedra
2003 Fiat Ulysse
FRATERNAL TWIN MINIVANS
They may share the same platform and most key components, but the new Lancia Phedra and Fiat Ulysse minivans are clearly not clones, declared Fiat Auto Marketing Director Klaus Fricke. The Fiat-branded mini is “more practical,” with a flexible seating system that can handle from five to eight passengers. The more stylish Phedra boasts “a touch of Italian class.” The two vehicles are similar in other respects, including their dynamic stability control systems, as well as the use of six airbags. And both offer buyers two gasoline and two diesel engine options.
2002 Opel Concept M concept
OPEL FLAUNTS CONCEPT M
GM’s Opel division launched the Concept M, but the model is in fact very close to the new version of the small Opel Corsa that will go into production, probably before the end of this year. The Concept M shares some details with the Sabia concept car, a Brazilian version of the Corsa that was shown in Detroit last year. This new Corsa will be built in Brazil, and can be equipped with a choice of engines ranging from a 1.2-liter four-cylinder with 75 hp to a 125-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder or a 1.7-liter DTI with 75 hp. The new car will be built in Brazil and will have to compete with the Ford Fusion, a similar version of the new Fiesta. —Henny Hemmes