by Chuck Dapoz
2003 Frankfurt Auto Show Index by TCC Team (9/8/2003)
2003 Los Angeles Auto Show Ford banner with type
Insignia: Haven’t We Met?
2003 Opel Insignia concept
GM Europe showed its design direction with the Opel Insignia concept vehicle, which fills a gap in the Opel lineup for a top-of-the-line model. Though styling cues supposedly came from large Opel vehicles of the past, it seemed more reminiscent of the Cadillac Sixteen concept vehicle, introduced in January at the North American International Auto Show: at first glance a coupe but actually a 2+2 sedan with unconventional rear doors, a long hood with a center longitudinal crease, huge tires, over-the-top interior trim, and a significant move upscale for the brand. The Insignia is a drivable prototype, with a 344‑hp aluminum V-8 from the Corvette, accelerating to 100 km/hr under six seconds. The bodywork, by Bertone, incorporates short overhangs, inward-tapered front and rear ends, muscular shoulders and LED headlights and taillights. Wheels are 21-inch aluminum. The rear doors slide open parallel to the body on an innovative, hefty hinge that does away with the need for unsightly guiding elements. Inside you’ll find handcrafted leather, ebony, lacquer, and indirect blue and green lighting coming from unseen slots in the doors and ceiling. This is obviously a luxury car, but to eliminate any doubt Opel included a rear-seat TV with DVD player, a coolbox for two bottles of champagne and a humidor.
Pininfarina: Not Just A Niche House
Pininfarina used its news conference to promote its expanded engineering and manufacturing capabilities, resulting from the recent acquisition of Matra Automobile. Sergio Pininfarina, chairman of the Pininfarina Group, and his son Andrea Pininfarina, the CEO – son and grandson of the company founder – stood next to the new Maserati Quattroporte, a Pininfarina design that was unveiled in Frankfurt, and spoke of the strategic plan for their company. Matra is a French coachbuilder that once built its own sports cars, and it has designed and manufactured vehicles for other automakers, perhaps the best known being the first Renault Espace minivan. As Pininfarina expands its capabilities in engineering, testing, and prototyping, it is also expanding globally, notably with Asian manufacturers. The company has worked with China’s Hafei Industrial Group, and more recently with Hyundai.
new Siemens banner
MINI Accessorizes for Success
MINI collection - Frankfurt
If it weren’t for all the cars, you might have though you were at a fashion show rather than an auto show. But the MINI news conference was a fashion show. The music pumped, and the models – we’re talking human models here – danced on and off the stage wearing clothes and carrying other items from the 2003/2004 MINI Collection, which range from accessories such as handbags, belts, and wristwatches to digital cameras and a wireless computer mouse in the shape of a MINI. If you’re looking for something with four wheels, there are skateboards and roller skates. You can check out the MINI Collection at www.mini.com/shop
. Automotive journalists are a jaded lot and not given to applauding products or presentations, but the MINI news conference received the biggest applause at Frankfurt. Not a lot of substance concerning automotive facts and figures, but it was entertaining.
Visos: The New Shape of Ford?
2003 Ford Visos concept
Ford rolled out its first purely European concept vehicle in many years, the Visos. Though the designers say they pulled a few design cues from Fords of the past, the Visos is not at all retro. Proportions are of a classic a 2+2 sport coupe, with a sharply raked A-pillar, and the curve of the C-pillar is reminiscent of the Capri. The B-pillar is hidden behind tinted glass, adding to the car’s sleekness. The doors extend deep into the roofline, and the roof itself lifts up and folds inward, providing easy access to the rear seats. The engine is a six-cylinder bi-turbo, pumping 350 hp to all four of the 20-inch tires. Of course the Visos is a showcase for technology, incorporating what Ford calls “Active Surfacing,” for example automatically deploying a rear spoiler, rear diffuser, and front splitter when the car reaches about 55 mph. In addition, cameras of the vehicle’s imaging system, which provide a clear rear view and “blind spot detection,” retract into the body when the car is parked. Inside, most dials and switches have been replaced by a high-definition LCD monitor in the center console. “We didn’t want a pie-in-the-sky vehicle,” said Chris Bird, Ford of Europe Design Director. From the outset, the Visos was intended as a feasible design, providing a hint of things to come from Ford.
Škoda Roomster: Making a Minivan Fun
2004 Skoda Roomster
The name sums it up. The design team at Škoda combined “room” with “roadster,” and the result is the Roomster, a concept five-passenger family vehicle brimming with enough clever innovations to appeal to active young adults. The windshield and front door windows seem to be from an airplane cockpit, and a large amount of glass is used throughout the vehicle, including two lengthwise sunroofs and a rear hatch made completely of glass that extends down to the bumper. This gives a sense of space and openness, especially for rear-seat passengers, and there indeed is a lot of room in the Roomster. The rear seat slides back to the tailgate – the seat travel is 30 inches – giving more legroom than a limousine and the cargo space of a small van. The front passenger seat turns 180 degrees, so rather than just keep an eye on the kids, you can face them. There’s only one rear door, on the passenger side, which slides back on a large hinge. It’s wide and reaches high into the roof, providing easy access. When VW bought Škoda Auto a few years ago, no one could have foreseen this 100-year-old Czech brand becoming a style and innovation leader. There are no plans to produce the Roomster, but it’s possible some design elements may appear on future Škoda vehicles.