Paris Auto Show: The Highlights

September 23, 2004

Paris Auto Show: The Highlights

Get all our Paris coverage here:

2004 Paris Auto Show, Part I by TCC Team (9/23/2004)
Chevy goes global, S3X slips under Freudian radar, Opel Astra GTC clears the air, and Ford's new Focus takes aim.

2004 Paris Auto Show, Part II by Marty Padgett (9/23/2004)
BMW goes 185 mph on H2, the GTI makes a glorious return, and Aston hits 200 mph without our help.

2004 Paris Auto Show, Part III by Marty Padgett (9/23/2004)
Citroen's trio of Frenchness, Peugeot's sexy 907 concept, and Honda's utterly practical MPV.


2004 BMW H2R

2004 BMW H2R

HUMMER may have the H2 initials locked up, but BMW's favorite H(2) these days is hydrogen - and that's the fuel it used to propel a new experimental race car to a new record. The H2R, shown off after its record-breaking run of 185 mph at a French test track, is thought to be the fastest hydrogen-powered car ever built, giving BMW's efforts to develop cars based around the alternative fuel a sporting shot in the arm. The H2R is powered by a 6.0-liter V-12, not the fuel-cell powertrain that other automakers have pursued as the industry tries to engineer a course away from fossil fuels. The H2R, BMW says, accelerates to 60 mph in about 6.0 seconds, weighs 3440 pounds and develops 285 hp from its future-think powertrain.

Peugeot 907

2004 Peugeot 907 concept

2004 Peugeot 907 concept

The stunning 907 concept has few antecedents, according to the loosely translated French dialogue we heard on the floor of the Paris Expo. In fact Peugeot says this concept is only the second vehicle to wear the number 9 - the racing 905 of the early 1990s being the other. The concept, according to execs, is the "concentrate of brand values," which apparently include a whomping 500-horsepower 6.0-liter V-12 coupled to a six-speed sequential gearbox. The big, handsome grand tourer is outfitted with a luxuriant interioer, including Alcantara trim and a wooden steering wheel.

Volkswagen GTI

2006 Volkswagen GTI

2006 Volkswagen GTI

Though it's here at the Paris show this week and available right away for European customers, Volkswagen's GTI takes a looooong time to get to U.S. enthusiasts - the 2006 model doesn't arrive until October of 2005, and in the U.S. we'll only get the two-door model. The new GTI, the fifth generation of the go-fast econobox that practically invented its own market niche, shows up with the new 2.0-liter FSI turbo engine with 200 hp and 206 lb-ft of torque that's also found in the new Audi A3, here teamed too to a six-speed gearbox. So shod, the new GTI hits a top speed of 146 mph and should be able to sprint from 0-60 mph in 7 seconds; a DSG version should cut that figure to 6.7 seconds. The new GTI gets way more aggressive that previous editions: big bumpers front and aft, a black radiator grille with red rim, and black trim at the lower part of the body outline its intentions as do the rear wing, double exhaust tips, and 17-inch wheels. Inside there are logoed sport seats a three-spoke steering wheel, and aluminum pedals and shift knob.

Aston Martin Vanquish S

2005 Aston Martin Vanquish S

2005 Aston Martin Vanquish S

Fastest Aston - say that five times fast and the new Vanquish S will be gone before you get tongue-tied. Ford's uppermost brand said on Thursday at the Paris show that a boost in power to its V-12 supercar pushes it to more than 200 mph. The 6.0-liter V-12 in the Vanquish S now develops 520 horsepower, and gets small revisions to its suspension and steering to handle the newfound capabilities. Aston will still build the "slower" 460-hp version, but the S will assume the topmost spot in the lineup - and will wear some cosmetics befitting its new station in life, including a more rounded grille and a new trunklid revamped for better high-speed air flow. Larger six-piston calipers for the brakes are included. And as always, the price is "if you have to askā€¦"

Opel Astra GTC

2005 Opel Astra GTC

2005 Opel Astra GTC

While much of the attention is going to the launch of Chevrolet, GM isn't exactly ignoring its mainstay European brand, Opel. The troubled subsidiary has been clawing its way towards a turnaround with an aggressive product offensive that "is sacred" to its revival, asserted GM Europe Chairman Fritz Henderson. The Astra is a major link in the chain of new models rolling out of GM plants, and a more sporty, Astra GTC version makes its debut in Paris this week. The hatchback will boast an array of five different gasoline and diesel engines, from 90 to 120 horsepower. Meanwhile, a high-performance concept version of the Astra was unveiled at the Thursday press preview, its 2.3-liter gasoline engine producing 240 horsepower.


2005 Mazda5

2005 Mazda5

Think of the new Mazda5 as "a practical car that can dance," declared the automaker's marketing chief, Steve Odell. The vehicle he referred to combines attributes of both a sporty hatchback and a pint-sized minivan. The Mazda5 features dual sliding rear doors - a first in the segment Europeans call MPVs - and a highly flexible interior package that can seat up to seven. There's plenty of storage space, even some hidden below the second row of folding seats. But for minor changes in bumpers, and a seating package configured for six, the version of the Mazda5 shown in Europe will also wind up in the U.S. sometime in 2005. Initially, Mazda expects only limited sales, explained Odell. "It probably starts out as a niche, but I think there's an opportunity for vehicles with flexibility in the U.S."

Benz CLS Arrives in January

2005 Mercedes-Benz CLS 500

2005 Mercedes-Benz CLS 500

The sleek-bodied 2006 Benz CLS 500 will arrive in the U.S. in January of 2005 wearing a pricetag between that of the similar E-Class sedan and the range-topping S-Class - roughly the low to mid-$60,000 range, Mercedes-Benz USA execs said at the launch of the vehicle prior to the Paris auto show. However, the low-volume "four-door coupe" won't be coming over with all-wheel drive or with a six-cylinder version, at least not for now. The AWD option is definitely off the radar - at a worldwide total of 30,000 units planned each year, 10,000 destined for the States, the volumes aren't there to justify the addition. However, a V-6 version with a lower bottom line is expected since it's already offered in other markets. A 476-hp AMG version, the CLS55, arrives in February.

Toyota Readies New Ad Strategy

Toyota Motor Sales next week will break a new brand campaign featuring a new slogan, "Moving Forward."

It will be the third ad strategy and theme by the Japanese carmaker since 1998.

Toyota joins a string of car companies that have launched new ad slogan in recent weeks and months. Buick, Pontiac, Mercury, Chevrolet and Ford are all trying out new ad strategies and slogans in the hopes of re-grounding their brand communications.

While the other brands seem to be flailing with their new slogans in an attempt to give direction to wayward and ill-defined brand images, Toyota's only problem seems to be that the average age of its buyers are creeping up. Toyota sales certainly don't show signs of a drifting brand, as sales are up slightly this year to 1,138,048 through August. That's good enough to pass Chrysler's retail sales most months.

Toyota is scrapping its "Get The Feeling" tagline, which replaced a short-lived "Everyday" slogan launched in 1998. Before that, Toyota for more than a decade had advertised "I Love What You Do For Me" and "Oh What A Feeling."

Dealers drove the slogan change, said one Toyota insider. "The dealers have been clamoring for something fresh," said the Toyota executive. Ads are created by Saatchi & Saatchi.

Toyota briefed reporters on the campaign Thursday with an embargo of Sept. 28. But learned of the change independent of the briefing.

The decision to change ad slogans and strategies used to be tougher than it seems to be today. Pontiac has had three strategies and slogans in as many years. Buick has had three in five years. Ford is changing is creative strategy for its car line for the third time in four years next month.

While consumers don't buy a car based on an ad slogan, as any sales manager will tell you, people do identify better with a brand that is consistent in its communication. "Several car companies have simply become slaves to the sales guys who like to shake things up, but without regard to the longer term brand consequences of flop-flopping and flitting from lily pad to lily pad," says marketing consultant Dennis Keene.

BMW is the exception, using The Ultimate Driving Machine" since 1973. And Toyota's sister unit, Lexus, has barely deviated from its ad strategy since its launch in 1988. Lexus launched with The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection," and has altered it to "The Passionate Pursuit of Perfection." -Jim Burt

2005 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner by John Pearley Huffman (9/6/2004)
Link by link, Toyota builds a bigger Tacoma.

Mitsu Names Truck "Raider," Details '06 Eclipse

2006 Mitsubishi Raider

2006 Mitsubishi Raider

The Dodge-sourced truck Mitsubishi will put on sale next year will be dubbed the Raider, in a nod to Mitsu's SUVs past. The ailing Japanese carmaker told its dealers in New Orleans on Thursday that the truck will get a standard V-6 with a V-8 option, two different cab configurations, and distinct style to keep confusion with the Dakota on which it's based to a minimum. A 500-watt sound system and Bluetooth integration of cell phones will please the techno-addicted.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse

Mitsu also told dealers that the 2006 Eclipse will bow alongside the Raider at the 2005 Detroit auto show in January. The new Eclipse will actually go on sale first - in summer 2005, a couple of months ahead of the Raider. The Eclipse will get more powerful four- and six-cylinder engines (the six is worth 260 hp), an available six-speed manual gearbox or five-speed automatic and 18-inch wheels, and an optional 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with a six-CD in-dash changer, MP3 playback, nine speakers with a 10-inch subwoofer.

2005 Mitsubishi Evolution MR by Bengt Halvorson (9/20/2004)
A little more punch, and a little softer around the edges. Still, better make it a decaf.

Drunk Driving Doesn't Include Horseback

The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court has ruled that if you're drunk on horseback in the Keystone State, you can't be prosecuted for drunk driving, no matter how much you think the Appaloosa beneath you is actually a Hemi Cuda. The Court found that in the case of Riders Keith Travis, 41, and Richard Noel, 49, who were charged with drunken driving in Mercer County, Penn., in 2002, that a horse doesn't qualify as a vehicle and thus can't be convicted under state law. They and the drunk driver in the pickup behind them that hit the back of their horse as they rode down a dark country road were all arrested on the scene and all failed sobriety tests, the AP reports. The lone dissent in opinion, posted by Justice Michael Eakin, was written in song-lyric form after the theme music to the "Mister Ed" TV show of the 1960s:

"A horse is a horse, of course, of course,

but the Vehicle Code does not divorce

its application from, perforce,

a steed as my colleagues said.

"'It's not vague,' I'll say until I'm hoarse,

and whether a car, a truck or horse

this law applies with equal force,

and I'd reverse instead."

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


With more blue oval trucks on the road than anywhere else in the world, Texas is undeniably Ford Country. That's why the State Fair of Texas is the perfect place to showcase an even greater level of capability for the backbone of the Built Ford Tough franchise -- the new 2005 F-Series Super Duty -- as well as introducing the newest member of the King Ranch family, the Ford Expedition King Ranch. Already the proven leader in power, payload and capability, Super Duty is redefining towing leadership -- boosting its best-in-class towing capability to a whopping 19,200 lbs. with the new TowBoss package. The F-350 now delivers nearly 2,500 lbs. more towing capacity than the nearest competitor.

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Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 8.81 +0.06 (+0.69%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 40.51 -0.58 (-1.41%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 16.75 -0.12 (-0.71%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 18.38 -0.12 (-0.65%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 29.53 -0.49 (-1.63%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 6.40 +0.09 (+1.43%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 42.76 -0.66 (-1.52%)
Collins & Aikman Corporation CKC 4.29 unch (unch)
Cummins Inc. CMI 72.19 -0.68 (-0.93%)
Dana Corporation DCN 16.95 -0.38 (-2.19%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 41.64 -0.36 (-0.86%)
Delphi Corporation DPH 9.03 -0.01 (-0.11%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 7.30 -0.14 (-1.88%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 60.16 -0.96 (-1.57%)
Ford Motor Company F 13.80 -0.20 (-1.43%)
General Motors Corporation GM 41.19 -0.29 (-0.70%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 34.38 -0.13 (-0.38%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 10.61 -0.23 (-2.12%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 24.58 -0.09 (-0.36%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 54.76 -0.30 (-0.54%)
Lear Corporation LEA 53.53 -0.62 (-1.14%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 72.50 -0.40 (-0.55%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 17.89 -0.05 (-0.28%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 21.66 -0.09 (-0.41%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 20.07 -0.53 (-2.57%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 2.82 -0.01 (-0.35%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 76.00 +0.16 (+0.21%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 18.65 -0.20 (-1.06%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWR 2.34 -0.08 (-3.31%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 23.37 -0.48 (-2.01%)
Visteon Corporation VC 7.90 -0.08 (-1.00%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 30.07 +0.23 (+0.77%)

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