2003 Geneva Show, Part III

March 4, 2003

 

 

TCC's Auto Show Index by TCC Team (2/23/2003)
Our coverage of the world's major auto shows, year to year.

2003 Geneva Motor Show Index by TCC Team (3/3/2003)
All the best from the Swiss car event of the year
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Audi Muscles In

2003 Audi Nuvolari concept

2003 Audi Nuvolari concept

The Nuvolari Coupe is officially a “study,” at least for the moment, but the concept vehicle drew some admiring stares during the opening morning of press previews at the Geneva Motor Show. Declaring it a blend of “power, elegance and emotional desire,” Audi CEO Martin Winterkorn noted the aluminum-spaceframe Nuvolari delivers 600-hp through its V-10 engine. There’s no question Audi is hoping to shift direction a bit under the direction of Bernd Pischetsrieder, who took over as CEO of parent Volkswagen AG last year. But the German executive cautioned that in current form, “we would have to change things” on the show car before it could go into production. The sleek and swoopy design doesn’t reflect changing market demand, Pischetsrieder told TheCarConnection. A production version would have to offer room for four adults, and that would require changing the design to permit a functional rear seat.

 

VW Unwilling To Trade Profits For Share

2004 Volkswagen Touran

2004 Volkswagen Touran

“We’ve got to preserve profits,” Jens Neumann, VW board member in charge of North America, told TCC during a break in the Geneva action. So, while the German automaker has been forced to up its incentives in recent weeks, Volkswagen has no interest in going head-to-head with the American Big Three — even if that means losing sales and market share. The price for short-term gains would hurt the brand’s image in the long-run Neumann insisted, stressing VW’s interest in moving up-market. But he acknowledged that means his company will almost certainly lose ground in North America over the next year as it awaits a new line of products. That includes the next-generation Golf, which made its debut in Geneva. The Touran hatchback has been redesigned to go after the likes of the popular Renault Megane Scenic. A more conventional version of the Golf will not reach U.S. shores for close to another year. Neumann said VW expects to get a bit of a boost from the U.S. launch of its new Touareg SUV later this year. Volkswagen’s first SUV will start at around $40,000 with a V-8, and the automaker hopes that will draw customers away from the much higher-priced BMW X5. Meanwhile, Neumann said VW is studying options for the big price gap between the Passat sedan and the Touareg sport-ute. A roadster is one distinct possibility. For now, there are “only studies,” however, and new product probably wouldn’t reach market until at least 2007.

 

Lambo Gallardo Takes the Red Cape

2004 Lamborghini Gallardo

2004 Lamborghini Gallardo

The long-awaited “baby Lamborghini,” the Gallardo, was finally and formally unveiled at a well-attended press conference on Tuesday. Boasting a 5.0-liter V-10 putting out 500 horsepower, the Giugiaro-designed two-seater will launch from 0-100 km/h (62.5 mph) in just 4.2 seconds, and pull a top speed of 309 km/h, or 193 miles an hour. The Italian automaker, a subsidiary of Audi, is counting on the Gallardo to “open up new dimensions for Lamborghini,” declared the automaker’s top executive, Dr. Werner Mischke. If it meets expectations, Gallardo will boost the company’s annual sales from 400 to at least 1000. Critical to the expanded appeal, Mischke stressed, is that the $150,000 sports car will be designed “can also be used every day,” unlike conventional Lambo models, such as the bigger Murcielago.

 

What’s New For Subaru? Style?

2003 Subaru B11S concept

2003 Subaru B11S concept

If you have a hard time imagining what “symmetrical all-wheel-drive looks like,” take a glance at the B11S, a concept car that could define the new shape of Japanese automaker Subaru. The Grand Utility Tourer is meant to “suggest a bird in flight, reflecting Subaru’s aircraft heritage,” explained Kyoji Takenaka, president and COO of parent company Fuji Heavy Industries. The turbocharged B11S is the most dramatic design concept from Subaru since the automaker pulled its quirky, controversial SVX off the market. No word whether the new vehicle will go into production in current form, though elements of the design should show up in the next-generation Legacy sedan.

 

Suzuki Readies Rally-Ready Ignis Sport

2004 Suzuki Ignis Sport

2004 Suzuki Ignis Sport

Suzuki’s new minicar is designed to invoke the fun-to-drive attributes of the company’s rally racing program, said Hirotaka Ono, the Japanese automaker’s director of overseas operations. It even borrows its name from the rally team, which has been a strong contender in the World Rally Series this year. Suzuki’s aim, said Ono, “is to give drivers a distinct feeling of motorsports,” packaged inside a car that’s “practical, reliable and easy to drive.” The Ignis Sport’s 1.5-liter engine will launch it from 0-100 km/h in 8.9 seconds. Betting Europeans are becoming increasingly open to Japanese products, Suzuki intends to launch ten new models, including the Ignis, by 2007.

 

Yips For Ypsilon

2004 Lancia Ypsilon

2004 Lancia Ypsilon

Lancia, meanwhile, is betting that with fuel prices rising worldwide, there’ll be more demand for upscale minicars like the new Ypsilon. With music from the classic Italian film playing in the background, Lancia President Gianni Coda called the new four-door the “neo-Dolce Vita,” or good life. When it hits the showroom in July, the car will boast a wide range of color, wheel and interior packages, along with a variety of normally high-line options. There’ll also be a massive “sky dome” sunroof on the vehicle, which measures only 3.7 meters, or about 12 feet, from bumper-to-bumper. Ypsilon is the Lancia version of the Fiat Stilo.

 

Slicing Costs at Ford

2004 Ford C-max

2004 Ford C-max

Ford Motor Co. rolled out the production version of its new C-Max, a Focus-sized five-door hatchback first unveiled in concept form at last September’s Paris Motor Show. The C-Max is the latest in a fast-growing lineup of vehicles sharing many key components. Eventually, these will include the next-generation Focus, Volvo S40 and V40, and Mazda Protégé, and perhaps another ten variants. The flexible platforms will allow each brand the ability to make extensive modification, in order to maintain brand character, Richard Parry-Jones, Ford’s global development chief told TheCarConnection. Even then, this “Global Shared Technology” approach will go a long way towards slashing development, production and marketing costs about 30 percent per vehicle, according to Ford Ford’s executive vice-president for International Operations, David Thursfield.

 

Mazda Strides with Sportif

2003 Mazda MX Sportif concept

2003 Mazda MX Sportif concept

Mazda lifted the curtains on two new products in Geneva this year. The Mazda2 is the European version of the Japanese Demio minicar. Sharing its platform with the Ford Fiesta, the 2 will be built at the automaker’s plant in Spain. It will be hitting showrooms this week, just in time for those cruising the annual auto show. MX Sportif, meanwhile, provides “a strong hint,” said CEO Lewis Booth, of the next-generation Mazda Protégé which, as noted above, will have a lot in common with the future Ford Focus. Due out within a year, the MX Sportif will be the fourth new model for Mazda’s European dealers in barely 18 months. Together, those vehicles will represent two-thirds of the Japanese carmaker’s global volume, Booth noted.

 

Ford GT To Hit Europe

Martin Leach Geneva 2003

Martin Leach Geneva 2003

Look for Ford to bring about 80 of its hot GT sports cars to the continent, promised European CEO Martin Leach. Available in mid-to-late 2004, they’ll have key attributes in common with the American version of the GT. That means a largely hand-built aluminum body wrapped around an aluminum spaceframe. In U.S. spec, the GT will boast a supercharged aluminum block 5.4-liter V-8 pumping out more than 500 horsepower. American buyers will pay around $100,000, though Leach declined to say what the European version’s sticker will ask for.

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