2006 Geneva Motor Show, Part III

February 28, 2006



2006 Geneva Motor Show Coverage by TCC Team (2/19/2006) 


Lexus Gaining Traction in Europe

While Honda officials may be questioning the role of hybrids, Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota , has no such qualms. Gasoline-electric technology could soon account for a quarter of Lexus sales in Europe, suggested the automaker’s vice president, Karl Schicht, during a Geneva preview. Lexus sales have been steadily growing in recent years, he noted, though they fell slightly short of the maker’s 30,000 target last year. The RX sport-utility vehicle has been the biggest seller for Lexus in Europe, and the RX400h hybrid racked up 4,612 sales in 2005, about 30 percent of total RX volume. That number, noted Schicht, “was constrained by volume,” and should see a significant increase in 2006, “further proving that hybrids are a brand-shaping technology” for Lexus. A second hybrid, the GS450h, will be launched in 2006, noted Schicht, so for the year as a while, hybrids “could become 25 percent of our total sales,” said the Lexus VP.



2006 Lamborghini LP 640

2006 Lamborghini LP 640

Lamborghini: More Power With LP 640

For those who think the “base” Lamborghini Murciélago is underpowered, there’s now the 640-horsepower Murciélago LP 640. The sports car took its bow in Geneva Tuesday, and will hit dealer showrooms by summer, likely at a European price tag of around 250,000 Euros. The four-wheel-drive LP 640 will be able to hit a top speed of 211 mph, noted Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann.






Opel GT Returns

2006 Opel GT

2006 Opel GT

While it was seriously underpowered and had more than a few technical problems, the Opel GT sports car of the late ‘60s remains a fond memory for many automotive aficionados, some too young to remember the original. But they’ll soon have a chance to check out the reborn Opel GT. The European arm of General Motors lifted the covers on the new roadster at the Geneva Motor Show, and will be launching sales later this year. The Opel two-seater is based off the same Kappa platform as the new Pontiac Solstice and upcoming Saturn Sky. Under the skin, the GT will be powered by a turbo 2.0-liter engine making 260 horsepower, more than atoning for the original sports car’s sins. Expect 0-60 times of less than 6.0 seconds, noted Opel marketing chief Alain Visser. The projected price is 29,900 euros. Unfortunately, GM officials acknowledged, there will be no right-hand-drive version for markets like Great Britain or Japan . But at least for now, demand for the Solstice is so high, the three models are still likely to be capacity constrained for some time.




GM Streamlining for Profit

General Motors arguably “hasn’t been the world’s largest car company in 10 to 15 years,” suggested the automaker’s “car czar,” Bob Lutz, during a Tuesday night dinner. “We were a conglomerate of four to five regional companies with relatively little to do with each other. No wonder Honda and Toyota have been cleaning our clocks.” The tough-talking veteran said there may be a positive side to the threat of losing sales supremacy. It is a wake-up call for the GM team that it can no longer expect to win without putting up a real fight, Lutz said.

A number of steps are underway to improve the odds of a comeback, he added, starting with the switch to a global product development system this year. Among the goals, GM expects to halve the number of global architectures it now relies on for its varied vehicles. That could have saved $200 million just by having products like the Opel Signum and Malibu Maxx share more of their underlying components, said Lutz. The critical thing is to make sure that there is no badge engineering, he emphasized. The new GM system will reduce the number of prototypes it needs by 40 percent, said Lutz, saving up to $200,000 for each of the advanced vehicles. And GM expects the new development system to help it shave 20 percent in materials costs through the better use of economies of scale. Overall, GM is gunning for a 25-percent reduction in engineering costs and overall product development expenditures.

Under new global system, specific types of vehicles will be assigned to various regional development centers, no matter where the products will ultimately be marketed. Saturns, for example, will largely be developed in Europe , along with Opel vehicles, according to Lutz. Europe , he noted, does a better job on medium-size passenger cars than the U.S. Large trucks will be the purview of American engineers and designers. Small pickups will be handled by Brazil , while “very small cars” will go to Asia, primarily what used to be the Daewoo operation in South Korea . But Lutz stressed that while development might be focused in one country, “members of the team will look like the United Nations.”

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