Frankfurt Auto Show
|A new Golf, a red hot Alfa Romeo 8c Competizione plus more|
Jun 10, 2004 22:27:04|
16 ( -2 -12.5% )|
2003 Frankfurt Auto Show
Frankfurt, Germany - Germany's bi-annual auto show is often billed as the world's largest. After spending two days tramping from hall to hall it's easy to see why it gets that title. Where else can you find complete buildings designated to just one manufacturer?
Without a doubt Daimler Chrysler got the vote for having the most extravagant display this year. The company built a three story display spiraling around the inside of a domed building to show off its Mercedes-Benz cars. Visitors ascended a pair of escalators and then walked back down the wide helter skelter like display overlooking concept models below while viewing individual models and mini exhibitions on the continuously descending show floor.
Mercedes certainly had two of the most popular models on show. The long-awaited high-tech SLR sports car, built by McLaren, using a carbon fiber chassis is finally ready for production while the four-door coupe show car drew praise for its beautiful lines. Meanwhile Maybach and Smart were found in an adjoining hall. Smart unveiled its largest vehicle yet the Forfour and promised that a SUV version, to be built in Brazil, will go on sale in the US within a few years.
From a mass market point of view the most important car being launched at Frankfurt was the new Volkswagen Golf, which has been the top selling car in Europe until this year when the Peugeot 205 overtook it in the sales race. The fifth generation Golf model is slightly bigger and less boxy than previous iterations and will be a critical car for VW. It will not appear in the US for at least one year, where the yet to be introduced Jetta derivative is more important. The center of attraction for VW fans though, was a very pretty two-seater mid-engine roadster called the Concept R. It has a nose that's very different from current VWs and is said to represent the new face of future VW models. Let's hope the car also makes it to market as VW could do with a sports car in its lineup. VW also showed the long wheelbase version of the luxurious Phaeton for the first time. Although the short wheelbase model has been on sale for several months in Europe this bigger model will be the only version sold in the US.
Asian manufacturers are not nearly as strong in Europe as they are in the US. Nonetheless they are gradually making an impression, especially at the low end of the market. There were surprisingly few all-new models on display no doubt because of the upcoming Tokyo motor show, which is obviously more important for Japanese makes. Two years ago Hyundai launched the current version of the Tiburon at Frankfurt. This time it showed off the CCS, a neat convertible version created by Karmann, the German manufacturer known for producing convertible cars. Although designated as a concept it sure looked ready for production. Subaru is a company that has done well in Europe thanks to its rally successes. Perhaps because of this it chose to launch the all-new Legacy and Outback in Frankfurt. They definitely have a sportier look to them than previous versions.
The new Volvo S40 was another small car making its debut in Frankfurt. Looking for all the world like a shrunken S80 this new car is based on the same floorpan as the next generation Ford Focus and Mazda 3. Volvo went to great pains to emphasis that the new car has the same safety features as its bigger brethren despite being much smaller and lighter. Volvo is very much part of Ford's Performance Automotive Group (PAG) so it was not such a surprise to find Land Rover right alongside the Volvo stand. The new 2004 version of the Freelander was given the prime spot, rather than the Range Rover, as it is a top selling entry level SUV in Europe. The new Freelander has a more up market look to it with many styling cues from the Range Rover.
After being off the market for a number of years BMW has introduced a new 6-Series coupe that has a nice smooth look to it that should elicit praise from all BMW fans, many of have been somewhat disappointed by the design of some recent BMW models. BMW also unveiled the new X3 sport activity vehicle. It is essentially a smaller version of the X5, which has also been freshened up. Although the X3 has been designed with Europeans in mind it should appeal to those looking for a smaller SUV with the BMW cache on this side of the Atlantic as well. In actual fact, with the rear seats in place, it has slightly more interior cargo space than the X5.
Motor sports are really important in Europe and just about every brand except Volkswagen had at least one race car on display. The group's successes nonetheless were represented by Bentley, Audi and even Seat and Skoda. With three Le Mans victories under it's belt it was no surprise to see Audi showing a concept of what a road going Le Mans car might look like. The Le Mans quattro is based off a Lamborghini but Pontiac will probably never allow Audi to use the Le Mans name, which is a shame.
Jaguar might be much smaller in the German luxury market than BMW or Mercedes but its cars still have some cache. Now it finally has a diesel engine available in the X-Type and is launching a station wagon version of the X-Type it should see sales increase, as these are two very important options in Europe, if not in the US. Jaguar showed the R-06 concept of what a future Jag may look like.
Although most liked the front styling the rear didn't seem to be liked by many visitors. However, across from this Jag the new Aston Martin DB9 drew praise from everyone for its smooth styling, great interior and sophisticated new chassis.
Finally two of the most exciting looking cars at the show are unlikely to make it to the US for some time if ever as they are from companies that have abandoned the US market. The Peugeot 407 Elixir is a sleek looking sports coupe powered by a 2.7-liter V6 diesel, that some say will go into production. In the eyes of many though the star of the 2003 Frankfurt auto show was the bright red Alfa Romeo 8c Competizione.
It was difficult to find out anything about this stunning looking car. Let's just hope though that despite all the difficulties Fiat, Alfa's parent company, is suffering it might go into production.
Who knows if GM ends up owning more or all of Fiat this Alfa might go on sale at your friendly local GM store. Talking of GM, American cars don't sell well in Europe but GM made a big splash with separate Corvette and Cadillac displays.
The new XLR and SRX were on display and although they may be bigger than most European cars these models did not look out of place with their leading edge designs.
- Luxury Auto Maker BMW's Earnings Rise - Luxury automaker BMW saw its earnings rise 7.6 percent in the third quarter, the company said Wednesday, boosted by new models such as the X3 sport utility vehicle and the 6-series coupe.
- BMW's Earnings Rise on X3 SUV, 6-Series - Luxury automaker BMW AG said its earnings rose 7.6 percent in the third quarter, boosted by new models such as the X3 sport utility vehicle and the 6-series coupe.
- BMW keeps outlook despite drag from auto profits - BMW's first-quarter pretax profitfell 4.6 percent, the world's largest premium carmaker said onTuesday, as the weak dollar and the changeover in its key3-Series car dragged on its core automotive result.
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