Paris motor show opens today
Car companies present new vehicles at the biennial trade show, but the auto industry faces slowing sales.2 October 2008
PARIS -- The world's biggest car show opened Thursday in Paris with the excitement of the press open day largely taken over by economic trouble in the industry.
362 brands from 25 countries will be represented at the Mondial de Paris, a biennial trade-show, which attracted 1.43 million people to its last event in 2006.
In 2008, however, the industry faces falling sales.
Rising petrol prices, new environmental legislation and falling sales figures were already a concern when the event was being planned.
Now the credit crisis could hurt the auto industry further.
Business analysts Global Insight, in a report published on their website Wednesday, warned that tougher credit restrictions could cause European car sales in September to drop by a fifth.
"The combination has left September with annual selling rates heading towards levels last seen during the early 1990s recession", the analysis said.
Manufacturers displayed a range of new models, particularly smaller cars designed to attract drivers concerned by high fuel prices and pollution.
Toyota will present three new cars in Paris: the new Avensis car, a smaller off-road vehicle called the Urban Cruiser and the iQ micro-car.
Other Japanese companies will be present.
Honda will reveal its Insight hybrid, designed to compete with Toyota's market-leading Prius as an eco-conscious family vehicle, and Nissan will present the all-electric concept car, the Nuvu.
From the United States, General Motors will for the first time show Europe the Volt, the electric motor driven vehicle.
German manufacturers, long known for their fuel-hungry luxury cars, will respond to EU environmental regulations with a range of compact 4x4s.
French companies Peugeot and Citroen will also enter the diesel-electric hybrid market with the Prologue and the Hypnos.
Renault's equivalent is still at the concept car stage, dubbed the Ondelios.
The traditional petrol-driven options will also be present.
Affordable and expensive cars will be presented, from the new version of Volkswagen's 34-year-old Golf hatchback to the all new Ferrari California.
However, analysts admit the industry is negative about 2009 sales.
"Launching new models in this context is not ideal", noted Mark Fulthorpe of CSM Worldwide.
Oil prices began to decline from historic highs since the world economy slowed, leading some to hope for increased sales.
But credit trouble caused by the US banking crisis limited financing deals used to encourage consumers to purchase new cars.
Bertrand Ratko, an employee of industry marketing experts RL Polk, said he did not expect sales to increase before 2010.
"No one is very optimistic and everyone is lowering their forecasts", he said.
The Paris motor show opens Thursday and Friday for the press and industry representatives. From Saturday until 19 October it will welcome paying members of the public.
[AFP / Expatica]