Expatica news

Germans on offensive at Geneva car show

3 March 2004

GENEVA – Leading German car companies are hoping that the upcoming Geneva Motor Show will fuel-inject the auto industry following a somewhat sluggish start to the year.

“It’s way too early to get faint-hearted,” says noted German auto expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer. “2004 could very well turn out to be a good year for the industry”.

The industry aims to come out fighting at the prestigious show, with a bevy of new models and new concepts to convince economically wary drivers that it may finally be time to trade in the ageing autos in their driveways.

Organizers of the show, which runs from 4 March to 14 March gave the press a preview Tuesday of what buyers can expect.

Industry insiders say the show, marking the start of the year for the European market, may yet cause slipping sales figures for January and February in many main areas to rally.

Major players hope to up sales at the Geneva show by unveiling attractive financial packages, cut-price deals on selected models and a host of mouth-watering innovations.

Despite many firms now hosting their own product launches rather than waiting for the international shows for new products to debut, hopes are still high for Geneva, the big date on the European car calendar.

Leading the pack are the top German marques, each grabbing headlines with new innovations.

Opel’s great white hope is the new Astra. Being pitched as a rival to the new Golf, itself suffering so-so sales, the new five-door Astra is the first variant of the third-generation range and boasts an electronic IDSPlus suspension system with Continuous Damping Control (CDC).

Opel is also squaring up to Peugeot and Renault with the new Tigra, a compact two-seater roadster-coupé with a retractable steel roof.

The company is also premiering plans for the Trixx, a compact concept car that will have the people at Smart looking over their shoulder, should it go into production.

BMW cruises in on the wave of a record turnover for last year, bearing among other innovations a new touring version of the 5- series. The show will also be special for the BMW-owned Mini marque, whose convertible version looks set to keep tills ringing in 2004.

Another German manufacturer taking its top off is Volkswagen, whose new Beetle cabriolet takes centre stage at Geneva, along with plans for the next generation of Golf Cabrios, set to be built later in the year.

Volkswagen-owned Skoda will display the new-generation Octavia II. The medium-class saloon may look quite different to the new Golf, but nonetheless a peek under the bonnet shows how closely they are related.

Mercedes-Benz also lines up on the starting grid with a fleet of innovations. Making its world premiere at the show is the Formula-1 inspired second-generation SLK roadster, a car sure to tempt some of the more affluent drivers thronging the halls.

The new SLK features air-heated neckrests to allow top-down motoring even in chillier conditions.

Mercedes will also present the road version of the CLS based on the E-Class, bridging the gap between a coupe and limousine. The study of the car was first presented at the International Automobile Exhibition (IAA) in Frankfurt.

While the Germans are doing all that, what about the Italians? Fiat, for one, will present a new diminutive concept car, Trepiuno (Three-Plus-One), a reworking of its mythical Fiat 500 model first launched in the 1950s and now a cherished collectors’ item.

The car, which boasts a “sky dome” glass roof, derives its name from its flexible seating arrangement, capable of hosting two in the front and, if necessary, an adult and child in the back. The car is not expected to enter production before 2008.

In Geneva, Fiat will also present a new version of its odd-looking Multipla MPV as well as two models from its Lancia and Alfa Romeo subsidiaries.

Subject: German news