2006 Paris Auto Show, Part I

September 28, 2006



2006 Paris Auto Show Index by TCC Team (9/25/2006)


Audi Reveals Production R8

2008 Audi R8

2008 Audi R8

Enlarge Photo

The long-awaited Audi R8 made a late-in-the-day appearance at the Paris Motor Show. The two-seat sports car picks up the performance mantel and heads off in a direction where the Audi TT could only dream of going. Of course, the R8 starts with a special pedigree, sharing its underlying structure with the “Baby Lamborghini,” the Gallardo. The look is distinctly Audi, however, rather than just a clone of the Italian supercar. Though there are some structural changes, both the Italian roadster and R8 have aluminum spaceframe platforms. The Audi gets a 420-hp V-8, rather than Lambo’s big V-10, however, and there’ve been obvious tweaks to the driveline and suspension to adapt to the different engine and create unique handling and performance characteristics. But there’s little doubt Audi intends to use its new supercar — which is expected to carry a price of a bit over $100,000 — to underscore its performance bona fides. The Volkswagen AG division won five victories at Le Mans since the 2000 race.



Are GM-Renault/Nissan Talks Dead?

“We’re simply shadowboxing,” said an extremely high-ranking source at General Motors, asked about the state of talks between the U.S. automaker and Euro-Asian partners, Renault, and Nissan. Earlier this week, the three manufacturers agreed to extend their discussions, which could lead to the creation of a tripartite alliance. While GM CEO Rick Wagoner declined to discuss the status of the negotiations, he told TheCarConnection.com on Thursday, “If (there is) the opportunity of working with Nissan and Renault — or other companies — that could pick up the pace of our turnaround or generate shareholder value, we’re wide open to it.” But Wagoner quickly cautioned that GM negotiators “have to look at it selfishly,” to make sure there actually is a payoff for the Detroit automaker.


If GM were to sign on with Nissan and Renault, it would create a behemoth unquestionably larger than any other auto manufacturer or carmaking alliance. On the other hand, if the Detroit maker decides to go it alone, it could be facing a threat to its 75-year-position as automotive king-of-the-hill. Recent announcements from Toyota suggest the Japanese company hopes to be producing closer to ten million cars a year by 2008, which may very well push it past General Motors, according to industry analysts. “We’d like to keep winning,” GM Chairman Wagoner admitted, “but the sun will rise the next day if we’re not” number one.



Ford Looking to Europe for B-Cars

Small cars are suddenly big news with U.S. motorists, and despite the recent retreat in small car prices, all indications suggest that so-called B-segment models, long popular in Europe, will gain momentum in the States, as well. That’s good news for makers like Nissan and Toyota, who have begun bringing over new minicars, but it’s a problem for brands that aren’t ready to enter the fray, notably Ford Motor Co. That could begin to change, Ford officials hinted during the announcement of their revised Way Forward turnaround plan in September. But where would they get a new line-up smaller than the current Focus? How about Ford of Europe, which will be revising its various B-segment models, starting in 2008? “We’re working together a lot these days,” hinted Peter Horbury, head of North American design operations, following Ford’s preview at the Paris shpw. The question is whether European products “match up” to what North America needs. But today’s flexible product platforms make it easier to customize vehicles for individual markets, another well-placed Ford source stressed. So don’t be surprised to see a U.S. B-car within a year or two after the next generation of European models pops up.



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