2003 Geneva Show Preview

February 23, 2003

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73rd International Geneva Motor Show
 

 

 

 

With the cold and snow of Detroit behind them, the top brass of the world’s automobile industry are preparing for a trip to more pleasant surroundings. The first week of March will find them in Geneva, Switzerland, for the most cosmopolitan of the European auto shows. The economic and political situation in Europe isn’t at its best at the moment, and it’s likely to get worse if an invasion of Iraq sets off during the show, but there’s still a full program of new cars scheduled for a debut in Switzerland.

2003 Pininfarina Enjoy concept

2003 Pininfarina Enjoy concept

With the demise of the Turin event, Geneva has become even more important for the Italian design houses because it is effectively their local show. Both Pininfarina and Bertone, long-time supporters of Geneva, have already issued sketches of concept cars they will be unveiling. Pininfarina’s offering is a ‘research prototype’ named Enjoy, which combines the form of an open-wheeled racer with two seats. Mechanical details have not yet been given.

The Bertone car is a modern view of a classic GT, using BMW mechanical components including the Munich company’s 400-hp V-8 engine. Among its unique qualities will be an onboard ‘tender’ that can be used as in-town transportation when the car is parked. Whether it is a two or four-wheeled machine will not be known until the wraps come off on press day, March 4, when Pininfarina, Bertone and Italy’s other great design consultancy, Giugiaro’s Italdesign, all launch new concepts in one 45-minute segment of the show’s hectic round of press conferences.

2003 Opel GTC concept

2003 Opel GTC concept

The U.S.-based majors all concentrate on Detroit to show their concepts, but GM Europe will have a smart coupe concept based on its Astra compact sedan. GM Europe has issued pictures of the coupe concept it will be showing at next week’s Geneva Auto Show. The GTC Concept is seen as a strong indication that the products of Opel and Vauxhall will in future have a more sporting feel to their design. The coupe, which is sized in the same class as the Ford Focus, has a sweeping roofline and big (19-inch) wheels that hint at extra performance, and these features could easily make it through to production. Not so likely to make it to the showroom floor is the GTC’s full-length glass roof, which covers a passenger space that GM stresses provides comfortable accommodation for four occupants.

Another new car that will be making its debut in Geneva is the latest iteration of the Mini. This version is equipped with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder diesel developed by BMW in collaboration with Toyota. The engine features the latest ‘common-rail’ injection technology and is fitted with a turbocharger and intercooler, giving it 75 hp and ample torque at low engine speeds. Fuel economy is the big attraction of the diesel engine for European buyers, and thanks to the power unit and a six-speed manual gearbox similar to that used on the high-performance Cooper S version, the Mini One D, as the new car is known, scores well on that level. It gives over 70 mpg (US) and the car will cover around 600 miles on just 13 gallons of gas.


2003 MG Express

2003 MG Express

One vehicle that will not be appearing at Geneva is the latest from MG. The reason is that Geneva is strictly a car show, and the new MG is a van! Designed for businesses that want something a little special about their delivery services, the MG Express is based on MG Rover’s smallest sedan range and offers three power options. The most powerful has a high-set rear wing, a 160 hp engine and a top speed of 135 mph — sufficient to ensure that the pizzas it carries will never get cold.

2003 Subaru concept

2003 Subaru concept

Subaru will be showing its B11S concept coupe, a car that is said to signal the way that new Subaru designs will follow. Apart from the classic SVX coupe of 1989, which was designed by Giugiaro, Subaru has not been a company noted for the looks of its cars. And yet its practical approach to styling has led to the Impreza rally cars and the Forester, both of which have started design trends. Now, however, the company is taking a more design-led approach.

2003 Peugeot Hoggar concept

2003 Peugeot Hoggar concept

Peugeot of France is one of the most successful and profitable car companies in the world, and although it is said to be looking at the possibilities of returning to the U.S., it is not present in that market and therefore had no need to be in Detroit. That means Geneva is the first show of the year for the company, and it has two new concepts and a new production car ready to meet the world on March 4. The concepts are the 807 Grande Tourisme, a luxury four-seat grand tourer, and the Hoggar, an open-topped leisure-time off-roader. The cars look good, as Peugeots regularly do, but they don’t open up any new boundaries. The Grande Tourisme follows the example of Renault’s Avantime — which has been in production for some 18 months — and the Hoggar has a little too much dune buggy influence in it to be truly of the 21st century.

2003 Peugeot 307 CC

2003 Peugeot 307 CC

On the other hand, Peugeot can be proud that a car it showed as a concept in Paris just last September will be on the Geneva show stand as a production model. The 307 CC is a four-seat convertible with a retractable steel roof, and it will go on sale just in time for summer, the selling season for convertibles.

 

2003 Mazda MX Sportif concept

2003 Mazda MX Sportif concept

Mazda is another manufacturer that will be showing a new production car and a concept. The production model is the Mazda2, a supermini that is being produced at Ford’s plant at Almussafes in Spain with a sales target of at least 40,000 units. The concept is the MX Sportif, a car that is clearly aimed at production rather than setting extreme styling trends. The company says it “indicates the direction Mazda will take for a new, global ‘C-segment’ vehicle” and pictures show it to be just that, a clear expression of how the Ford-controlled Japanese firm sees the family car future.

2003 Toyota Avensis

2003 Toyota Avensis

Another new production car making its official sales debut in Geneva is the British-built Toyota Avensis, which is just entering the market segment Mazda is targeting with the MX Sportif. Toyota plans to sell 130,000 units of the car in Europe in the coming year, following its international policy of building cars across the world for local consumption.

2003 Fiat MPV

2003 Fiat MPV

Troubled Fiat will be showing new super-economy cars that will be built in Poland, one a small sedan that will eventually replace the two smallest cars in the Fiat range, the Siecento and the Punto, and the other a Punto-sized MPV. Both will be powered by an extremely frugal three-cylinder turbocharged diesel of 1.3-liter capacity.


2003 ferrari Stradale

2003 ferrari Stradale

The two minicars will make an interesting comparison with the other end of the Italian car industry, represented by Ferrari’s new road-trained racer, the Challenge Stradale, and Lamborghini’s ‘compact’ Gallardo, both of which will be making their first public appearances.

 

 

2003 Audi A3

2003 Audi A3

Audi will be showing a new coupe concept, the TC, alongside a new version of its small sedan, the A3, which won’t make the transatlantic trip — unless oil prices force a rethink of the U.S. market.

 

Porsche Carrera GT

Porsche Carrera GT

One German product that will be crossing the pond in limited numbers is Porsche’s new 381-hp 911 GT3. There will also be a crowd round the production version of the limited-edition Carrera GT, which will be making its world premiere.

 

 

2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom

2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom

Sticking with limited production vehicles, Geneva will see the European unveiling of the new Rolls-Royce Phantom. The car had such success in Detroit that production has been tripled — to three cars a week, which come with the option of a “theatre package” comprising two separate power-operated rear seats and a dedicated DVD-based entertainment system.


2003 Pagani Zonda

2003 Pagani Zonda

One of the special supercar manufacturers is Pagani, based in Modena, Italy. The company will unveil its new Zonda Roadster in Geneva. In the Roadster, Pagani combines exotic technology with handwork. The car has been designed with innovative technology ideas and with attention to safety and features a new carbon fiber central-chassis structure, that reaches the highest structural rigidity level in the segment. The Roadster has a roll bar of carbon and chrome-molybdenum alloy, which is linked to the rear section of the chassis. A carbon fiber/carbon textile removable roof is available for bad weather conditions. Under the hood Pagani placed the Mercedes-Benz AMG 555-hp 7.3-litre V-12 engine, the same that was already used in the Zonda S. Michelin developed special tires for the 19-inch forged aluminium wheels in the sizes 255/35 and 345/35 for the front and rear respectively. The Italian company will hand build only 40 Zonda Roadsters, and each will be customized to match the new owner’s tastes.

Car sales are cooling across Europe, but that is unlikely to cast a shadow over Geneva, which, because of its location in ‘neutral territory’ — Switzerland hasn’t had a native car manufacturer since the 1920s — many consider to be the best of the international shows.

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