2004 Geneva Motor Show, Part IV

March 3, 2004

2004 Geneva Motor Show Index by TCC Team (2/22/2004)

 

Maserati Feeding Need for Speed

2004 Maserati MC12 Stradale

2004 Maserati MC12 Stradale

Even as it prepares to launch the third new model in its lineup, the Quattroporte sedan, Maserati has rolled out a fourth product, though getting one won’t be easy. The MC12 is the name chosen for both the new Maserati race car, and a street-legal version featuring a 6.0-liter V-12, dubbed the MC12 Stradale. It’s rated to top 205 mph, and will launch from 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph) in 3.8 seconds. Company officials report they’ve already sold all 25 Stradales, each at 600,000 euros. But Maserati insiders report there’s a good chance a second batch of MC12s will now be offered up. Though street legal in Europe, the road-ready racers will not pass federal standards in the States. Even so, several Americans are believed to be among the buyers.

 

Lambo Raises the Roof

2004 Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster

2004 Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster

Lamborghini’s new Murcielago Roadster is likely to provide the ultimate rush for those who like the feeling of the wind in their hair. The two-seater is being billed as the world’s fastest open-top roadster, with a top speed of precisely 200 mph. Officials at the Italian automaker insist they were also able to avoid making trade-offs in body stiffness — which translates into handling and road stability. With the addition of the new car, the Italian-based division of Audi becomes a three-model company, and “We think the roadster will account for 50 percent of the sales in the Murcielago range,” predicted Lamborghini’s Dr. Giuseppe Greco. That should mean about 200 or so cars annually, with an estimated price of around $315,000. Look for the first of the roadsters to be delivered to the U.S., “the most important market in the world for this type of automobile,” according to Greco. Sales will begin by late this coming summer, with rollouts to follow in Europe, Japan, and then other parts of the world.

 

Female Chauvinists at Volvo?

2004 Volvo YCC concept

2004 Volvo YCC concept

“If a man designed a car like this, they’d call him a male chauvinist,” declared our esteemed colleague at Car and Driver magazine, Csaba Csere. What got him so worked up? The YCC, or “Your Concept Car,” delivered to the Geneva Show by a team of women designers and engineers from Volvo. The mission might have seemed reasonable enough, asking them to come up with a prototype particularly attentive to women’s needs, but not likely to alienate men in the process. The YCC certainly got a lot of attention on the display stand, though also a fair share of criticism from both sexes. Said one female journalist of the ding-resistant body, “Basically, they’re telling us exactly what men used to say, that we women are lousy drivers, and likely to slam into the wall of the garage.” Then there’s the hood, which cannot be opened by the owner. Instead, there’s a warning system to remind women when to head for the shop when the oil needs changing — apparently another issue the YCC team found difficult for typical female drivers to cope with. And a special place was provided in the floor, right ahead of the shag carpet, for high heels, so women drivers don’t cause accidents wearing frilly and impractical shoes. It’s not the first time an automaker approached the idea of developing a car tailored to the distaff motorist. Dodge’s ’50s attempt, dubbed the La Femme, had swiveling seats to preserve modesty during entry and exit. It’s not clear how much the Volvo show car helps advance the idea of equal driving.

Ladies’ First with Volvo YCC Concept by Henny Hemmes (3/3/2004)
An all-woman team designs a concept, proving that the car industry isn’t just a man’s world.

 

Toyota Is Well-Versoed

2004 Toyota Verso

2004 Toyota Verso

After years of struggling to penetrate the massive European automotive market, Toyota suddenly seems on its way. The Japanese giant scored its sixth consecutive year of growth in 2003, with a ten-percent increase nudging sales to 834,661. That “beat our 2005 target by two years,” declared European COO Dr. Takis Athanasopoulos during a Geneva briefing. Now the push is on to blow past the million mark, and Toyota is readying an array of products to get there. That includes the “no-compromise” Verso, a Corolla-based crossover that joins the expanding list of European multi-function vehicles. The Verso is designed to seat seven adults in three rows, yet it measures barely 14 feet, end-to-end. Second and third-row seats are designed to fold in a variety of configurations, and when they’re all down, it creates a flat load floor. Expected to become Toyota’s fourth core vehicle in Europe, Verso launches in May of this year.

Green machines are also part of the Toyota push, even though European buyers have generally been wary of the automaker’s emphasis on hybrid-electric technology until now. The emphasis on the continent has been on high-mileage diesels which account for over two-thirds of sales in places like Austria — rather than complex gasoline-electric powertrains. But Toyota seems to be gaining some traction with the Prius. Even though it’s only available in about half of Europe, sales in January and February topped 3000, about 50 percent of what Toyota was hoping for in all of 2004. “This proves high technology can play a role, even in the mainstream (European) market,” asserted Athanasopoulos. The HEV will roll role into the rest of Europe by April. But there are no production plans for the MTRC. Short for Motor Triathalon Race Car, it’s reminiscent of the Pod concept shown in Tokyo last October, but this sporty version offers tandem seating and surprising power from its fuel cell powertrain that drives all corners through four in-wheel electric motors. Designed by Toyota's European design studio, ED2, MTRC is featured in 'Gran Turismo 4' the next generation of Sony Computer Entertainment's wildly popular videogame.

 

Nissan Qashqai: Hard To Pronounce, Easy To Use

2004 Nissan Qashqai

2004 Nissan Qashqai

The Japanese seem to be banking their European future on crossover SUV/wagon designs, and Nissan is no exception. The automaker noted that the overall market for various crossover designs has soared from 40,000 to 180,000 recently, and that is spurring Nissan to launch two new products of its own. First, it revealed plans to bring the Murano to Europe. The vehicle has already proved a strong success in the U.S. and should strike a similarly responsive chord on the continent, suggested Nissan Board Member and product chief Patrick Pelata. By European standards, Murano is quite massive, however, and that’s prompting the company to consider a second, downsized offering. It’s spelled Qashqai, pronounced KOSH-kai, and no, it’s not named after a Mideast dictator. While the name may be a bit precious, Pelata insisted the vehicle itself is “distinctive yet unpretentious. It’s rear door yawns wide for easy entry or access to a large and flexible cargo bay. Designed to “spend the majority of life in the city,” it nonetheless offers all-wheel-drive for owners who enjoy the outdoor life. Sharing the new, jointly developed platform also found in the Renault Megane, the Qashqai could hit market by 2006, said Pelata, “if the market reaction is strong” where the concept vehicle is shown this year. Look for even more new products from Nissan going forward, now that the company’s European operations are generating profits, company sources said.

 

Audi Shifts Shape With New A6

2004 Audi A6

2004 Audi A6

The last-generation A6 was one of the most innovative designs in the luxury segment, but the German automaker is adopting a new look for the critical product. The basic shape won’t surprise fans and foes, though it does boast a surprisingly distinctive nose that first appeared in production on the Volkswagen subsidiary’s flagship A8 model last year. (And which was previewed on Audi’s Nuvolari concept car.) At the rear, an integrated spoiler offers high-speed downforce. The new A6 grows in almost every critical dimension: the wheelbase is over three inches longer, the overall length is stretched nearly five, and it’s about two inches longer. What surprised some observers was the decision to retain a steel, rather than lightweight aluminum, body. There are a variety of new, high-tech features, including xenon daytime running lights, as well as active cornering lights. Audi also adds its MMI control system. Audi has five new powertrains available, three petrol and two diesel engines (2.0 TDI and 2.0 TDI V-6). The basic global gasoline engine is a 2.4-liter V-6 with 177 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Then there is the 3.2-liter V-6 FSI with 255 hp and torque of 243 lb-ft. The top version is the 4.2-liter V-8 with 355 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Quattro all-wheel-drive will remain part of the powertrain package. Specifics on U.S. models, and details on future performance versions, such as a next-generation RS6, were not released. A European launch is scheduled for April, but Stateside buyers will have to wait until later in the year.

 

BMW Holding The Line…

Even if it’s getting criticized for some of those lines, stressed the automaker’s confident CEO, Helmut Panke. The distinctive new look pioneered on the BMW 7-Series “was a necessary step,” essential in helping make the Bavarian automaker’s various models more distinctive. That will be even more critical going forward as BMW starts adding more products that step outside traditional sedan, coupe and wagon body styles, Panke suggested during an interview with TheCarConnection.com. “Consumers are looking for different solutions for their own tastes and needs.” Panke emphasized that a recently-announced reorganization of BMW AG’s product design unit was not in any way meant to censor or sideline controversial styling chief Chris Bangle. Quite the opposite, the CEO stressed. And he said there’s no plan to step back from the hotly-debated iDrive control system, though he did say BMW is continuing to explore how to make it more user friendly. Panke and his team have all but encouraged controversy in recent years, but during the interview, the one-time nuclear physicist acknowledged his own surprise at just ho loud the debate has grown. “In retrospect,” he acknowledged, BMW might have done a better job preparing the media and public ahead of time for what was on the way.

2019
The Car Connection
See the winners »
2019
The Car Connection
Commenting is closed for this article
 
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from the site. I can withdraw my consent at any time by unsubscribing.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.