2004 Paris Auto Show, Part IV

September 24, 2004

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2004 Paris Auto Show by TCC Team (9/20/2004)
The well-loved lights of the City of Light take the stage.

Bugatti Sets Sights On First Sale

The buzz around the Bugatti booth at this year’s editions of the Paris Mondial De L’Automobile is that the luxury car maker expects to deliver its first car in its current iteration at the end of 2005. Production of the first new Bugatti under Volkswagen control, at an asking price more than $1 million, will begin next summer at the Bugatti factory in Mulhouse, France. The Bugatti plant is capable of building 50 cars annually or little more than one per week. Engineers from Bugatti have already put more than 60,000 miles of test drives on the 11 prototypes developed to push the program ahead. The sleek ultra-luxury sports car is capable of top speeds in excess of 240 miles per hour and comes with an engine capable of producing 1100 horsepower as well as seven-speed transmission. The Bugatti also will come with all-wheel drive; two diffuser flaps over the front wheels and a wing and a spoiler at the rear of the vehicle that produce a significant downdraft at higher speeds.

Nissan Plans Tone For By 2006

2006 Nissan Tone

2006 Nissan Tone

Nissan unveiled the design study for a brand new car that will be added to the Nissan lineup in Europe in 2006.  Patrick Pelata, Nissan executive vice president and head of worldwide product planning, said the new Tone will replace the Almera, the current car that the Japanese automaker now sells across Europe. The wheelbase on the Tone will be just 20 millimeters longer than the wheelbase of the Volkswagen Golf but the overall length of the new vehicle is just over 4 meters. Nissan plans to market the new car to young families across Europe. “We learnt that busy young families didn’t have the car they need. They want a car that is easy to live with every day - particularly if they have young children. But they also need a car that’s fun to drive and affordable because it be the only car in the family,”

Pelata also announced that Nissan would start to sell the 350Z Roadster in Europe this fall. Nissan also plans to begin selling the Pathfinder, a traditional body-on-frame sport-utility vehicle, for the first time in Europe this year. The Pathfinder is designed to appeal to a growing number of active families who use their vehicle to escape the city. The new Pathfinder has three rows of seats and room for seven occupants as well as four-wheel-drive and a 2.5 liter, common-rail turbodiesel engine. The new 350Z and the Pathfinder are only two of six new products that Nissan plans to introduce in Europe over the next year. Nissan hopes the new models will help boost its presence in the European market, added Pelata.

Pelata said Nissan had to become more visible on European streets. “To have healthy growth here, we can not just do what everyone else is doing. We have to offer something different but which is relevant to new customers,” he added.

Ghosn: Motorsports No Use If They Lose

It was the kind of question that usually reduces auto executives to stock answers and cliches. But when Carlos Ghosn, the Nissan chief executive who is slated to become head of the Renault-Nissan alliance, was asked about motorsports during a press roundtable the Paris show, Ghosn surprised reporters by matter-of-factly stating that the value of motorsports had been oversold around the auto business. There is absolutely no point in participating in motorsports if you are an “also ran,” Ghosn said.  “Look around.  You see some people you know dumping $300 million, $400 million or $500 million in Formula One. It’s a joke,” said Ghosn in an apparent reference to Ford-Jaguar’s decision to dump its unsuccessful Formula One racing team after this season. “The relationship between racing and boosting sales and boosting specific technology, frankly we don’t find it,” added Ghosn. “We tried the Paris to Dakar race last year and we were not successful,” he added. Ghosn will give the Nissan to Dakar race another shot and Nissan has participated and done well in a series of races in Japan. “We don’t go racing for our executives to go have a great time and play golf,” he added. “If you are going racing, you have to chance of winning and bolster brand value. It cannot become something you do because you’ve always done,” said Ghosn, who said he wasn’t sorry that Nissan’s racing program had become one of the casualties of the company’s cost-cutting drive over the past five years. “I’m not sorry we don’t participate. I’m sorry where we participate and don’t get very much,” he said. In a footnote to Ghosn’s blunt putdown of racing’s value, one of Ghosn’s colleagues noted that the Formula One team at Renault is successful.

Rover Still Dreams About U.S.

By no means has the Rover Group given up its hopes of re-entering the North American market even though now it’s busy with a new venture in China and a new alliance with Tata in India. Rob Oldaker, director of product development at MG Rover Group, told TheCarConnection that putting a car on sales definitely remains one of the company’s objectives. “We’re certainly looking at the United States,” said Oldaker, who said he hoped the company could put a model on sale in the U.S. in the foreseeable future. He noted the Rover Group has substantial name recognition in the U.S. because of the continuing nostalgia for popular MG of the 1950s and 1960s and dealers are willing to handle the company’s products. However, none of the company’s current models meet the U.S. emission and/or safety standards and bringing the vehicles up to North American standards is an expensive proposition, Oldaker said. The MG TF, for example, has a great crash rating by European standards but its rear end doesn’t measure up exactly with the standards set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, he said. The Rover Group, though, has other new models under development, Oldaker added. During the development process, the Group’s engineers are asked to consider what it would take to prepare the vehicle for sale in North America as well as in Great Britain and Europe.

Oldaker also said that Rover’s management is very excited about its new alliance with Shanghai Automotive Group, which also has joint ventures with General Motors Corp. and Volkswagen AG.  The alliance with Shanghai Automotive puts the Rover Group into a critical market at a critical time. It offers Rover a chance to bolster its overall sales volume almost immediately. Shanghai Automotive already builds 800,000 vehicles a year, he noted.  Rover, on the other hand, sold 144,000 units last year and so far sales are down slightly this year because of model changes, he added. Tata, Rover’s Indian partner, also is now supplying the company with an Indian-made city car that will help dealers in Great Britain. A left-hand-drive version of the car will go on sale in the rest of Europe by the spring of 2005.

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