The Truth About Cars » Paris Auto Show The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Paris Auto Show Chinese Market 2015 VW Passat B8 Caught Unclothed Thu, 01 May 2014 11:00:53 +0000 volkswagen-passat-china-2-660x501

For European and Chinese customers awaiting the 2015 Volkswagen Passat B8, the following spy photos should hold them until the sedan’s debut at the 2014 Paris Auto Show in October.

CarNewsChina reports the Chinese model in the photos will have a wheelbase 10 centimeters longer than the European version, but both will otherwise be identical. The MQB-based sedan in Europe will see power from an assortment of four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines, as well as a rumored V6 pushing over 300 horsepower under the hood of a high-performance model.

Meanwhile, the longer Chinese version — to be produced by the FAW-VW joint venture as the Magotan — will make its debut the following April during the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show, and will only come with gasoline powerplants due to cities prohibiting diesel fuel use in passenger vehicles. Local consumers should expect to pay anywhere from 200,000 yuan to 350,000 yuan ($32,000 – $56,000 USD) once the B8 arrives in dealer showrooms; no word on what Europeans will pay for their B8.

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New Nissan Compact Hatch To Lead Fight For Increased European Growth Mon, 21 Apr 2014 13:00:31 +0000 Nissan_Almera_front_0071129

Eight years after the Nissan Almera left Europe, the automaker is planning a return to the C-segment hatch market in October, with the overall goal of 5 percent overall European market share by the end of FY 2016 in mind.

Automotive News Europe reports the compact hatchback will bow at the 2014 Paris Auto Show prior to going on sale soon after, and will be built in Nissan’s Barcelona, Spain factory, where capacity has been boosted to 80,000 units annually with the aid of a $178 million investment.

As for the Qashqai, which took over for the Almera in Europe upon the latter’s departure to great success, Nissan Europe boss Trevor Mann believes the compact won’t ding sales of the second-gen compact crossover:

In any segmentation you get that cannibalization. We think Qashqai sales will stay level. That car has defied what’s normal. The original annual sales target was 130,000 units. In the first year we made 160,000 units and since then we’ve been making 300,000 units.

Currently, Nissan holds around 4 percent of overall European market share. With the compact hatch leading the way, the automaker aims to own 5 percent by the end of FY 2016 in late March 2017.

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2012 Paris Motor Show: Suzuki S-Cross Concept Embraces Crossover Trend And Ignores History (w/ video) Fri, 28 Sep 2012 16:27:10 +0000

While not mentioned explicitly, this is Suzuki’s SX4 replacement – the Dodge Caliber S-Cross Concept – which is all but ready for dealer showrooms for 2013.

Suzuki seems to be taking a page out of Chrysler’s handbook from the mid-2000s: throw out a relatively smart, simple, small car and replace it with something that’s between C-segment runabout and SUV. We all know how successful that decision was.

While all other auto manufacturers are wasting their efforts on making smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles for the future, Suzuki is force-feeding hamburgers to the SX4 replacement and butching it up for crossover duty. After all, those millennial will need the extra ride height to clear curbs in front of the knock-off Starbuck’s.

The new S-Cross, confirmed for Europe (where the Suzuki portfolio has more models than one can count with one hand), was shown to the masses for the first time this week at the 2012 Paris Motor Show. A video clip featuring the S-Cross opens with some dubstep style beats ruined by some musical compositions pulled from any number of Sega Saturn video game titles. The mix-mash of environmental imagery makes you wonder if a Suzuki marketing professional spent the weekend watching Tron, Mad Max, and Lord of the Rings in a single sitting. But, we’re talking about the S-Cross, right.

The “concept”, painted in the same green hue which graced the 2005 Mercedes-Benz Bionic “Boxfish” design study (maybe the concept vehicle department went to the recyclers for their paint), is a jacked up C-segment crossover with available 20 inch dubs and updated four-wheel-drive system derived from other models in the stable. It represents the first vehicle in an aggressive push by Suzuki to release a new vehicle every year in Europe – because sales there are red hot! – but has not yet been confirmed for North America. While there has been no official word on what will propel the S-Cross, don’t expect a fancy hybrid or turbo setup, as you can probably bet Suzuki will be keeping costs in check.

Click here to view the embedded video.


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Guilt-Free Swank: Our Halo Is Green Fri, 28 Sep 2012 14:08:32 +0000

Reporters of Reuters, roaming the floors of the doom-dominated Paris Auto Show, finally found a feel-good trend: Green supercars, or make that guilt-free kickass swank, targeted at cash-positive crisis-sated, climate-conscious consumers .

416,500 euro: The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive.  At 552 kW and a top speed of 250 km/h, probably  the fastest and most powerful production electric car on the road. Range: 155 miles, probably not at Autobahn speed. In very limited production sometime in 2013.

Well above  100,000 euro: BMW’s i8 plug-in hybrid, first shown as a styling concept at the 2009 Frankfurt show and ever since.  96kW electric motor one the front axle and a 164kW turbocharged three-cylinder gasoline engine at the rear, “enough to propel the car from 0-100km/h in less than five seconds, while returning a frugal 2.7 litres per 100 kilometres.”At dealers or other motor shows in 2014 or thereabouts.

Above 100,000 euro: A wagon-like plug-in hybrid called the Panamera Sport Turismo. Uses a more advanced version of the electric motor and gasoline engine that power the current Panamera Hybrid, and can be driven in pure electric mode at speeds up to 130 km/h. Fuel consumption is less than 3.5 litres per 100 km, while CO2 emissions are less than 82 g/km. Tentatively slated for production around 2015.

More than 660,000 euros, but AWOL: The “New Enzo,” a green Ferrari. The much anticipated hybrid is said to  have a massive 600kW 12-cylinder engine mated with a 90kW electric motor, and might blow the Veyron away. But it didn’t make the Paris show.

BMW-i8 inside. Picture courtesy Mercedes Benz SLS AMG. Picture courtesy BMW-i8. Picture courtesy Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo. Picture courtesy New Enzo. Picture courtesy Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 2
Watch This Exclusive Video Of The McLaren P1 Fri, 28 Sep 2012 13:02:26 +0000

McLaren shows the P1 concept at the Paris Motor Show. Due to budgetary constraints, we had to outsource the video to India, and leave the reporting to Ireland’s Student News, which reports:

“McLaren has released very few numbers and figures, but the few that they have released are still interesting. According to McLaren, the P1 has gone through rigorous aerodynamic testing, just like a Formula 1 race car and produces the highest downforce produced by any existing road car. 600 kilos to be precise and that too well below its top speed. In fact, the P1 produces five times as much downforce as a regular MP4-12C and is comparable to 12C GT3 racer.”

“Just like the F1, the P1 has a body made completely out of carbon fiber, the mid-engined hypercar takes weight reduction even further by making use of new weight saving techniques. The car is built around a carbon monocoque and the roof structure and the safety cage is a carbon structure called MonoCage, an improvement over the MonoCell from the MP4-12C and the X1 one-off vehicle. “


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2012 Suzuki S-Cross Concept: This Is The New SX4 Fri, 10 Aug 2012 11:48:54 +0000

What you see above is the S-Cross concept from Suzuki, set to bow at the Paris Auto Show in September. But, this C-segment concept isn’t a new model, instead a replacement for the Suzuki SX4.

The current Suzuki SX4 was a product of a relationship between Suzuki and Fiat. However, this time around, Suzuki has gone it alone, developing the SX4 replacement completely on their own.

Details in addition to the official images are scarce. However, considering Suzuki continues to describe the vehicle as a “C-segment crossover” expect it to have the same all-wheel-drive goodness of the current SX4. Engines will probably vary, as per usual, between Europe, Japan, and the Americas.

The S-Cross is a concept in name only. Whether wearing the S-Cross or SX4 nameplates, the concept will spawn a production model probably for the 2014 model year.

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Paris Auto Show Outtakes: Oddities, Micros and Pole-Dancing Acts of Desperation Sat, 09 Oct 2010 20:21:53 +0000

Having survived my first immersion, it’s clearer than ever to me why TTAC doesn’t “do” auto shows in the usual manner. The relentless PR pressure and hype is tedious. And in some cases, it borders on the absurd or desperate, like the Isuzu pole dancers. True, without her rubbing her oversize derriere to the booming beat on the pole installed in the back of a pickup, it’s doubtful that Isuzu would have had any attention whatsoever. Like the Honda and Mitsubishi stands, for instance, which were deserted. But there were pockets of interest, genuine and contrived.

As previously pointed out, if you didn’t bring an EV to Paris, you were nobody. But an electric sno-cat?

Speaking of EVs, here are the rather fanciful “controls” for Toyota’s EV Concept. I think I recognize a cup holder, but the rest looks rather mysterious.

If you’ve had kids, you can imagine what this Bentley GT convertible kiddie seat will look like after five minutes with an occupant that’s been given a juice box and a cracker.

This interior doesn’t exactly invite trips to the drive-through either.

I like tall boxy vehicle more than the average person, but this “self-driving transporter of the future” takes it a bit too far.

I discovered a whole hall dedicated to “micro-cars”, which are quite popular in France and certain other EU countries where drastically reduced taxes, license requirements and operating costs are in effect. European kei-cars, in other words. Here’s a real mini, and cute as a button.

The Ligiers are quite common on the streets of Paris. Their two-cylinder diesel engines source from Yammar makes them a convincing modern update on the original Fiat 500, in size, speed and sound.

This little micro-sports car was so small, I just had to put myself next to it for perspective. No, I didn’t even try to get into it.

The Austin Healey Bug-eye Sprite was also emulated, this time with a mid-engined 600cc twin-cylinder mill. Probably just as fast as the original.

The Citroen Mehari has its clones as well.

Speaking of kei-cars, here’s an authentic one from the sixties, a coupe version of the Mazda 360.

Micros come as trucks too. Saw a number of these on the streets.  Enough mini cars; how about another sort of mini?

If it wasn’t an EV, it was likely to be draped in green, like every Skoda (and booth babe) on its stand, boldly proclaiming its CO output on sides and hoods.Why wasn’t her CO output tattooed on her thighs?

Enough already! That’s what I said too, after my five hour dash through all the halls; some kind of record, possibly.

]]> 17 Paris Auto Show: A Walk And Talk About Cars Mon, 04 Oct 2010 09:25:30 +0000

You don’t need TTAC to tell you what’s new at this year’s Paris auto show. If you want the re-hashed-yet-excited PR-based bits about the newest 515 HP sports car concept, or if you want to hear about which electric cars VW will maybe/probably/possibly introduce in 2014, and how great they already are at this very moment, then you probably know where to go.

Yet there is, undoubtedly, plenty of stuff from Paris worth writing about. For any car nut, the place is a Xanadu. Especially for me personally, when the opportunity presented itself to see the Paris show with one of my very favorite automotive writers (and I’m not just saying that because he’s the boss’ father), Paul Niedermeyer. Here’s an (edited, because you don’t want to spend the next three hours reading this), highly subjective conversation between two car fans. – Martin Schwoerer

Martin: So Paul, what do think you’ll find exciting here in Paris?

Paul: Well, you know, I like old cars, so its probably not surprising that the first car that catches my eye as we walk in is that delightful Mazda Cosmo. I have to confess that I wish I had gone to the 1968 Paris Auto Show when I was feverish about new cars like the Lamborghini Miura and the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3. But Forty-two years later is better then never. I will try to stay in the present, and am curious as to what direction the industry is taking, and what catches my eye.

Martin: I just like looking at wacky cars – there is something about Paris and Tokyo that designers tend to feel inspired to let their wildest ideas roam free. Nowadays, even Paris is commercial, so we’ll see… I am also looking forward to seeing the new Focus in the flesh. I also like electrics and I look forward to some test drives, like with the Renault Fluence and the Nissan Leaf.

Paul: There’s definitely electricity in the air here; it appears that if you’re a manufacturer and don’t have an EV production car or concept to show here, you’re at risk of looking like…your batteries are run down.

Martin: Whoa, here we are at Mercedes. Say, Paul, how do you like the new CLS and what’s your take on Mercedes’s new styling language?

Paul: Well, I don’t much like the current S-Class…and the new CLS even less. It’s too blingy. They just don’t look that classy or exceptional anymore. When it’s hard to tell a Benz from a Hyundai at first glance, you know the automotive world has really changed. The thrill is gone, at least for me.

Martin: I think it’s just a kind of tragedy. The previous CLS was an interesting and new take on “how to make a car for midlife-crisis guys with money who don’t want a sports car”. It created a new segment – the kinda-practical coupé. Is the new one better-looking in any way? I’d say, no: the new CLS just shows how lost the company is. It has an oddly aggressive, insectoid face and all kinds of odd and hectic creases in places that could use some quiet.

The press says that Mercedes’ styling boss Gorden Wagener is re-defining the company’s products and wants Mercedes to have “more emotional design”. But what does that mean, exactly? Why are faux-heritage bulges around the rear wheels emotional? Where exactly is the emotion in having creases everywhere? It just looks busy and confused to me. I’d call it “tired and emotional” design, if you’ll allow me to use the British expression for being inebriated. I think the Gordenized Mercedes are a product of some misunderstanding that Dr Dieter picked up in Detroit, to wit: that when you make something blingy, when you make it badass, you are making it emotionally attractive to the New Hedonists – the boomers who are in the position to lease expensive and unpractical cars. That may be, but it kills the brand for all the rest of us.

Paul: Agreed. The lowly and fairly clean C-Class may be the most successful current Mercedes, looks-wise. But the world is changing: Mercedes once appealed to those that wanted the very finest-built automobile, whether that was a luxury car or a durable four-cylinder diesel. That market has disappeared, leaving MB to chase new ones. Can you imagine someone wanting to stretch themselves financially to buy a CLS because they planned to keep it for twenty years?

Martin: The thing is, you’ll never know exactly how successful the new CLS is. Around 70% of this market segment in Europe consists of company cars. They’re leased at possibly cut-rate prices to meet sales targets, and only after three or so years do they get dumped at market rates. If somebody has the power to make himself look good, he’ll push volume. You might get a massive write-off at some point, but they won’t say “we are posting losses because our cars haven’t been selling, because they look sucky”.

Let me take a picture of you in front of the Renault Twizy. Could you imagine one of those in the States?

Paul: Well, having just seen how popular scooters (and the three-wheel variants) are here in Paris, I see how the Twizy and other concepts similar to it here will make sense for a certain segment here and in other European cities. It’s a step up from a scooter, period…

The US? No way, except maybe, in a few cities like SF, Portland and Seattle…Eugene?

Martin: I agree it’s a no-go in the U.S: people are just too scared of crashing against a Hummer. But picture this. An affordable car you can squeeze next to the two cars that are already in your driveway. A good drive, because it has its batteries underfloor, making for a low center of gravity. “Fuel” costs totaling around $1,600 for 100,000 miles. And no need to car pool, because you can’t… At least it’s easier for me to picture than the Nissan Townpod. It’s like they looked at the Cube and said “it’s OK, but it needs smaller windows!”

Paul: Yes, because smaller windows make so much sense in a city car!? Of course, if we’d have been here in 1968, we’d be laughing at the other extreme, that glass cube on wheels, the Qausar Unipower. Is there a happy medium?

Martin: And the Kia Pop? I like bench seats – but in a car that looks like a paper clip?

Paul: In the ever-more crowded field of urban EV runabouts, I guess the designers are a bit desperate to stand out. At least it has decent visibility! And I love that purple upholstery.

Martin: But I find it impressive how with the Optima, Kia is no longer copying VW: it’s now copying Lexus, and not without success. Just look at the C-pillar! What do you think?

Paul: The handsome Optima is generating a lot of interest here; the Kia stand, along with the Hyundai one, are perhaps the two most crowded ones I’ve seen. It’s a reflection of the remarkable leap forward these two have made. Who could have predicted that even ten years ago? It’s truly rare to see a car company leap from something everyone chuckled about, to one that everyone is taking very serious, like these two German car execs in the picture above. Watch out!

Martin: Here we are at Lotus. It’s ironic, wouldn’t you say? Lotus had an over-wide, unpractical supercar in the 1970s – the Esprit. Then it turned a new leaf in the early 1990s, with the true-to-philosophy, lightweight, unique Elise. Does the new Elite Concept “supercar” mean that Lotus is no longer a maker of pure, efficient sports cars? I don’t know – maybe the new design just clinics better in Saudi Arabia?

Paul: I suppose the Elise family is reaching a saturation point. Realistically, older tall guys like me can only admire it from the outside unless they’ve just walked out of a Bikram hot yoga class. So I guess they’re doing the same thing everyone else eventually does: brand extension. When will the Lotus SUV and four door sedan appear?

Martin: Speaking of wide-body cars that probably clinic well in Saudi Arabia, I do like how BMW’s new 6-series now has chrome on the lower grille. And I appreciate how one can sum-up BMW’s management philosophy in one short sentence: “We make cars that are fun to drive and don’t break down so often, at the same time we’re hedging the future with lightweight materials and electric technology.” I just wish they looked more European and catered less to the taste of rich antisocial types.

Paul: Clearly, the luxury car makers are thinking ever more of China and other growth markets. I doubt they’re holding clinics in Las Vegas or Phoenix. Just as well, though, now that I think about what I’ve just said! I certainly like this 6-series more than its predecessor; cleaner, more classic, less Bangled. And I’m not so sure about your “antisocial types” comment; BMWs do pretty well with rich liberals, at least in the US! We do have those here, odd as it may seem.

Martin: But since this is a European show, let’s see what’s going on with Peugeot. This is the world premiere of their Diesel Hybrid system, which might make sense if Toyota’s Atkinson-cycle engines were somehow really weak or not all that economical at higher speeds. But they aren’t, so it doesn’t, I think. So why go for Diesel? Just to reap the benefits of lower tax on fuel (per energy unit, in Europe)? To get slightly better fuel economy at a constant 90 mph? For the four-wheel-drive? I don’t get it. What do you say?

Paul: I’m not sure that I’ve noticed a non-diesel French cars on the streets of Paris of recent vintage; it seems like they all are. The tax break certainly distorts the market, and that is undoubtedly what motivated Peugeot. Having the rear electric motor completely separate from the front engine is an interesting and pragmatic choice. It would make it fairly easy to adapt to other engines, including gas. I rather like it, but it will be interesting to see how well it works and if the economics are viable, given the double (cost) premium of both the diesel engine and the electric components. I suspect this approach was also cheaper to engineer, rather than develop a new transmission to incorporate both motors.

Martin: Paul, you like cars that are compact, good to sit in with enough headroom for Frankenstein, and look nice. So you might like Peugeot’s HR-1 concept. It’s shorter than a Fiesta, has plenty of space for three, looks funky, has a good amount of ground clearance, and looks realistic (not too expensive). They say it’s a new segment – the stylish micro-SUV. What’s your take?

Paul: Clearly, the SUV influence has filtered down to every class of car. I have mixed feelings about them in general, but this one displays it more successfully than some. Just the ticket for hopping curbs in the city center. It just needs bush bars for the European inner-city parking space wars.

Martin: It seems you fit inside the electric Peugeot iOn (identical with Mitsubishi iMiEV and Citroen C-Zero). How’s the feel from the driver’s viewpoint?

Paul: Excellent. I’ve been wanting to see one of these in the flesh for way too long. I think the Mitsubishi is a superbly designed one-box urban car. And sitting in it only confirms that: it’s very roomy given the small footprint, and has very good visibility. A perfect city car for four. It is narrow, to meet Japanese kei-car standards, but its not a problem, for me, anyway. But Mitsubishi has already said that the export version, at least to the US, will have a wider body, to accommodate beefier Americans.

Martin: Ah, here’s the Rolls-Royce Ghost. I sort of like it, because it is somewhat discrete and unassuming, in a 1970′s Silver-Shadow sort of way. The Phantom, in contrast, says “I am so powerful I can bankrupt your country”, which is no longer the thing to do. I think if you’re going to go all plutocratic, you should be more eccentric, like the Phantom Drophead Coupe is, which tells the world you’ve got all you want and don’t care what anybody says.

Paul: The Ghost is ok; it certainly succeeds in fulfilling its mission, to compete against the Bentley Continental. I’m slightly disappointed that RR decided to go “downscale”, but certainly understand why. I actually quite like the Phantom Coupe, especially that weird windshield/A pillar. It reminds me of the eccentric and exclusive coach-built coupes of the thirties, whose designers felt the freedom to explore new ideas and designs. It says: “I don’t give a shit what you think; who are you anyway to even offer an opinion?”

Here we are at Saab. Do you think they’ll survive?

Martin: Well, I’ll tell you: I’m an avid investor, and I think at the moment you could short any maker of smart phones except for Apple and Android franchises, because they all based on the wrong technology and have shrinking market shares. But I’d never try to bet on a car company going down. Because you’ll always find a government that will keep a zombie car maker going. I mean, who really needs all these brands? Would the world really miss Saab, or Opel, or Vauxhall, or Fiat? Now that a Fiesta rides better than any small Peugeot, who needs ‘em? Just look at the Saab 9-5: it’s another one of these executive cars that don’t have that much room inside. Huh? It’s supposed to make you feel good while it makes your family feel miserable? Talk about new hedonism…

Paul: Feel good? It’s like sitting in a coal mine: wall-to-wall black.

I’m not sure I agree with you about Saab’s future. I’m not so sure Sweden really cares that much. But then…never underestimate the whims of governments. Yes, there are way too many brands, especially when you have Hyundai/Kia and other new brands coming on so strong.

And Lancia? Well, they do have the sexiest models; I mean the girls (booth babes). But unless they come with the cars, I don’t see much future for them either.

Martin: Here we are at Ford. And here’s the Focus. Nice! It could have been a generic one-box design, but they added just the right amount of creases and effects (like the triangular sub-grilles) to make it recognizable… Typically for Ford, it shows attention to layout detail: sitting in the back, there is enough space for me to put my feet under the front seats… But the dashboard is messy. Tell me, why do designers think us grown-ups want to have dozens of buttons to play with? Are they insinuating we are a bunch of fastidious and fussy Felix Ungers who like to spend days learning how to use a mountain of gadgets? A real put-off for me.

Paul: For an electronic gadget Luddite like me, it’s a major turn-off. Toyota seems to know this, at least for the cars that tend to appeal to the older demographic, like the Camry. I fear it will only get worse. That’s one of the reasons I don’t review new cars that often: most reviews now spend half their time talking about the interface, etc., and very little attention goes to mechanical aspects. Understandably, of course, because they’re increasingly all the same under the skin anyway. And the skins are often all too similar too. Here I go again!

It’s my dilemma; in 1968, cars were so distinctly different mechanically and stylistically. Well, I need to qualify that: in Europe, more so anyway. It was an exciting time of exploring dramatic new forms, solutions and directions. That’s mostly over now: a new Lamborghini is not really all that different in concept than the Miura, which was so revolutionary then. Electric drive is the one really new thing, and I’m glad for that alone, regardless of how practical it is just yet. Would you mind if we stop and look at that Cosmo again on the way out, Martin?

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Volkswagen Launches 7th Generation Passat Thu, 30 Sep 2010 17:37:53 +0000

When I started as a budding (and driver’s license less) copywriter on the Volkswagen account in fall of 1973, they were just introducing a (for Volkswagen) highly unusual car. They called it the Passat. After that followed in rapid-fire fashion the Golf, the Scirocco, the Polo. They turned the company around. And kept me employed for more than 30 years. With the Golf being the volume Weltmeisterr, it is often forgotten that it was the Passat that started a new era at Volkswagen. And now, the car enters its 7th generation.

At the Paris Auto  Show, Volkswagen presented the seventh iteration of the Passat. More than 15 million units have been sold in more than 100 countries, making it one of the greatest success stories ever in automotive history. As a nod to history,  a sedan and a station wagon were launched simultaneously. For decades, the station wagon version had outsold the sedan 7:3, only in more recent times did the sedan become more popular.

The new Passat “offers upper-class features in a mid-class car,” boasted Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Head of Development for Volkswagen.

The Gen7 Passat comes with the usual panoply of then different engines, from 105 hp all the way through 300 hp. According to Volkswagen, all are more fuel efficient, some up to 19 percent more. The 1.6 TDI turbodiesel with 105 hp consumes just 4.2 l/100 km (56 MPG, not EPA) and emits only 109 g/km CO2.

The new Passat will be available in initial European markets starting as soon as mid-November.

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(Not So) Wild Ass Rumor Of The Day: Lincoln To Go Global? Thu, 30 Sep 2010 15:23:19 +0000

When Alan Mulally took over at Ford and sold off Jaguar and Volvo, a few people (me included) wondered as follows:

Having “Ford” as a global brand is well enough, but how will they compete in the more profitable luxury market?

Now some might point to Euro Fords having a more luxurious feel than other cars and to a degree, that’s true. However, I can’t see people ditching their Mercedes-Benzes and Lexuses for a Ford. Well, it seems that the answer to this question was right under our noses all along.

Reuters reports that Lincoln may be taken global within five years once it’s turned itself around in North America. Now, I bet you think that some “source” who didn’t want to be named said this. Nope. It was Mulally himself.

“Our primary focus is going to be the United States, as well you know, but I have been looking at and driving the new Lincoln line up and they are fantastic, ” said Mr Mulally at the Paris Auto Show, “I can imagine that after we have re-established the luxury brand Lincoln in the United States that there is going to be a lot of customer demand to move those vehicles around the world.”

Well, if Alan Mulally is reading this, may I suggest exercising extreme caution? Just because a brand sells in the good ol’ US of A, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll translate around the world. Want some proof? Ask GM how well Cadillac did in Europe.

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Editorial: American Leyland Watch: Plans, Trains and Automobiles Mon, 08 Jun 2009 16:54:14 +0000

We have met the Obamamobile, and it is a train. Just ask Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Locke was in Michigan recently, while SecTrans Ray LaHood, VP Joe Biden and MI Governor Jennifer Granholm were discussing a Detroit-Pontiac-Chicago high-speed rail line in Washington, D.C. The HuffPo's Susan Demas asked Locke if he saw the rail project as a way to wean Michigan's manufacturing base off its centuries-long auto addiction. To which Locke replied, "Oh, yeah," faster than the Kool-Aid man after a post-college Eurorail adventure. "As you see more construction of rail cars, high-speed cars, it's going to require new engineering, new products and services and that's the natural fit and extension for automotive dealers and suppliers and manufacturers." And Demas agrees, arguing that "linking up with rail makes perfect sense for a contracting industry, at a time when environmental and economic factors make expanding public transit a necessity." Yes, necessity. As in the mother of invention. And political intervention.]]>

We have met the Obamamobile, and it is a train. Just ask Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Locke was in Michigan recently, while SecTrans Ray LaHood, VP Joe Biden and MI Governor Jennifer Granholm were discussing a Detroit-Pontiac-Chicago high-speed rail line in Washington, D.C. The HuffPo‘s Susan Demas asked Locke if he saw the rail project as a way to wean Michigan’s manufacturing base off its centuries-long auto addiction. To which Locke replied, “Oh, yeah,” faster than the Kool-Aid man after a post-college Eurorail adventure. “As you see more construction of rail cars, high-speed cars, it’s going to require new engineering, new products and services and that’s the natural fit and extension for automotive dealers and suppliers and manufacturers.” And Demas agrees, arguing that “linking up with rail makes perfect sense for a contracting industry, at a time when environmental and economic factors make expanding public transit a necessity.” Yes, necessity. As in the mother of invention. And political intervention.

Demas does point out that the rail project in question could face political opposition. “It will take a real will on the part of the states and the Congress to get it done,” she quotes former Rep Joe Schwarz (R-MI) as saying. “Members of Congress from non-high-speed rail states will fight it.” Meanwhile, the self-serving dynamic identified by Schwarz illustrates a major problem with the US rail industry, and how (car-to-train transition aside), the US ownership of GM could make it a political pawn at every turn.

Over at The Daily Beast, former GM and Amtrak man James Langenfeld recounts how the publicly-owned rail firm has become a perennial victim of DC’s politics-before-economics. “Amtrak had a government-affairs department rather than a finance department,” he writes. This “proved to be an omen: Train service was provided to states with powerful senators, even if this involved huge losses and few passengers.” A preview of coming factory placements? Meanwhile, at “38 years old and [showing] no sign of moving out of the taxpayer’s house,” Amtrak subsidies are currently $85,000 a year for each employee, or about $35 every time Amtrak sells per ticket sold. In the absence of profitability, Amtrak and now GM merely provide another opportunity to send pork home to the district.

And Langenfeld isn’t the only one who sees parallels between Amtrak and the new Government Motors. “I see no hope whatsoever for the situation,” says Wendell Cox, who served as a policy consultant for the government-appointed Amtrak Reform Council a decade ago. Cox tells Fox News that political considerations have led to poor decisions at Amtrak, “like maintaining costly, long-distance lines and setting up inefficient routes that detour through low-population areas.”

Even among those who support the bailout and improvements to America’s rail system, there should be concern about any mention of the auto and rail industries in the same breath. After all, the government’s open-ended commitment to GM is sure to become a focal point for political opposition to the Obama administration. And for those who are already disposed towards criticism of Obama, Amtrak is a preeminent symbol of government mismanagement. From George Will to the National Review‘s K-Lo to Ron Paul, GM-as-Amtrak is becoming the meme of choice for the emerging anti-auto-bailout mainstream. Anyone who thinks GM won’t be held hostage to political battles clearly has another think coming.

And though Amtrak has the excuse that rail industries are typically subsidized by governments, GM can’t fall back on the “everyone’s doing it” argument. Meanwhile, suggesting that the auto industry should look to yet another government-stimulated sector as a way forward provides further incentives to accept mediocrity in its automotive products. All of which illustrates how slippery the bailout slope really is. Remember, the bailout has been justified since day one with rhetoric about the unique role of the automobile industry in American life. If there’s any possibility for hope in the emerging American Leyland, it comes from the ability to invest huge amounts of money at a time when the auto industry is going through a period of transformative change. Rail business is a distraction at best, and a life sentence of government angency-dom at worst.

Locke’s talk of “transitioning” the auto industry towards rail shows exactly how far politics could go towards affecting the future of the new Government Motors. And without a clear exit strategy, there’s no telling where it could end. There’s nothing inherently wrong with more rail transportation in the US, but painting the rail biz as an alternative for a struggling US auto industry ignores the ugly reality of public Amtrak ownership. As badly as GM has done building cars for several decades, it will either exit Uncle Sam’s nest on the strength of its cars or face a downward spiral into political adventurism to which there is no bottom. In the case of the latter scenario, the last 30 years of GM’s decline will look like the work of true genius.

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Qu’est-ce qui se passe avec les Parisiens et leur autos flambées? Fri, 30 Jan 2009 03:13:19 +0000

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6¾-litre Twin-Turbo V8 Bentley Arnage “Final Series” Fri, 10 Oct 2008 13:00:47 +0000 I say Caruthers, what’s all this hoo-ha about the Arnage? That Whitcombe chap at Classic Driver said something about them not making it any more. That is correct sir.  Well why the Devil not? Regulations sir. Damn those Belgian swine! Consider them damned sir. What’s that? Yes. Exactly. So, should we trade in the old girl? What’s this one got that mine hasn’t? All the power of the Arnage T with the luxury of the R, sir. Two cars for the price of one. Clever. Tell me more. Well, speaking from memory, the Final Series offers hand-made waistrails with inset chrome strip, bearing recessed Bentley badges, of course. Yes, yes. Of course. Go on. A new rear cocktail cabinet and document storage trimmed in hide, and picnic tables available in a choice of three unbleached wood veneers. Waistrails eh? I had a cousin who was a waistrel. Very amusing sir. Anything else I should know? Let’s see… I believe it has twenty-inch five-spoke, two-piece alloy wheels and ‘Le Mans’ lower front wing air vents, body-coloured front and rear lamp bezels, ‘jewel’ fuel filler cap and ‘Final Series’ wing badges and polished stainless steel front door treadplates. Do I have to ask the price? If you do sir, you can’t afford it. Can I? No sir. The stock market is a little… unsettled lately. Stuff and nonsense. My money’s safe as houses! Just so sir. Just so.

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Lamborghini Estoque Interior: GRAY? Thu, 09 Oct 2008 16:42:57 +0000

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Let Them Eat Strudel: Porsche Chief Dismisses Move to Smaller Cars Sat, 04 Oct 2008 12:18:01 +0000 So there I was, browsing a Bloomberg (three terms or bust!) story about automakers fessing-up to the fact that electric vehicles must take a back seat to “normal” fuel-efficient small cars– which is a pretty good piece of Parisian bloggage in and of itself– when BANG! I run smack dab into a quote from the highest paid auto exec on planet Earth: Porsche SE Chief Wendelin Wiedeking. “Do you believe people will actually switch to smaller cars?” Wendy asked, in the midst of discussing Porsche’s yet-to-unveiled fuel-sucking four-door. Uh, yes? Nein! “This car fits into these times,” Wiedeking insisted. “You should go on a journey in a small car with your four-person family. What will happen is you will have had enough when you get to the border after a couple of kilometers.” Hmmm. Why is Wendy dreaming of heading for the border? Of course, by “people” Wendy means the same sort of customer GM Car Czar Bob Lutz referred to when confronted by the fuel-suckage of the then-new GMT900 SUVs (i.e. rich people don’t care about the price of gas). Meanwhile, back in the world of mass motoring, GM Europe Prez dismissed the impact of his company’s Hail Mary plug-in hybrid Volt: “The ordinary guy has to be able to afford these technologies, and the technology in the beginning will be quite expensive.” Toyota, for some reason, gets the last word. “The Japanese company’s executive vice president for strategy, Mitsuo Kinoshita, was more blunt about a world without low-emission technologies that supplant gasoline. In that scenario, ‘There is no future for automobiles.’”

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Paris Auto Show: Ferrari California Sold Out ’til 2011 Fri, 03 Oct 2008 15:11:30 +0000

I’m in the minority. While I think the Ferrari California is not only ugly, but unfaithful to the priceless Ferrari brand, others do not. Some of us shower regularly. Others like this Ferrari California. Where I see a competition with the Mercedes SL for buyers, others see some kind of gorgeous and practical roadster. How many others? Enough that the California is sold out until 2011. That’s not a surprise; every Ferrari model sells out. But what is surprising is that 60% of California buyers will be new to the Ferrari brand. And what do you bet those folks won’t be repeat customers?

TTAC’s Martin Schwoerer, attending the show in Paris, writes:
If for no other reason, the Ferrari California would have made it worthwhile to come to Paris. In the flesh, it looks absolutely stunning. I was prepared to criticize the retro, Ferrari-heritage inspired style, but it works out fantastically. Andrea Pininfarina, before you left this world, you made it a bit more beautiful.

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ChryCo Prez Jim Press, GM COO Fritz Henderson: No Recovery ’til 2010 Fri, 03 Oct 2008 15:09:22 +0000 Now that Ford CEO Alan Mulally has written-off the chances of an auto industry sales receovery for 2009, his Detroit brethren have decided to join the Greek chorus bemoaning their fate. Bloomberg caught up with former Toyota and current Chrysler Prez Jim Press in Paris to hear the bad news. “I don’t see any `whys’ why it’s going to be any better,” Press announced. “We’re already adjusting to this level pretty well. We’re learning how to fight through it. It’s hand-to-hand combat. It’s tough.” Especially if you don’t have a golden parachute strapped to your back. GM’s Fritz Henderson, also not staying at a Timhotel, was slightly less pessimistic about the year ahead. “Even if [the $700b federal bailout plan] does pass, I still think that ’09 will be weaker,” the COO told Business Week. “I don’t see anything which would suggest that you’d see a significant rebound, at least in the first half.” And then Fritz says some scary ass shit. “If the situation deteriorates further, we’ll have to look at further actions, but we don’t have anything planned today.” And… “Henderson said GM’s liquidity plan was based on a forecast of industrywide U.S. car sales of 14 million this year and next. ‘At the time we felt that was a conservative level. Given what’s happened, I’m glad we chose a conservative level because that could well be the level it lands at.’ Uh, Dude, we’re looking at sales WELL under 13m, maybe closer to 12. To paraphrase Sweet Pete, that’s a spittoon full of not good.

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Nissan – Porsche Cat Fight Continues: “GT-R Ring Time Discrepancy Down to Driver” Fri, 03 Oct 2008 14:32:06 +0000 Oh man, this is getting ugly. After Porsche’s Turbo and GT2 lost their fastest ’round the ‘Ring record to the Nissan GT-R, the German automaker was… skeptical. So they bought a GT-R in the U.S. and ran the Nürburgring to verify their Japanese rival’s claim. And so they didn’t, failing to get within 25 seconds of GT-R’s ‘Ring highly hyped lap time. Porsche attributed the GT-R’s triumph to non-standard tires, which would nullify the Nissan’s “fastest production car” lap record. Cornered at the Paris Auto Show, Nissan’s European spokesman Neil Reeve said “Quite simply we’re not going to get into a war of words with Porsche.” And then did exactly that. “The final word from us is that it was done on absolutely standard tyres which are available to customers in the showroom. They’re not trick tyres – absolutely standard tyres, normal road tyres. The GT-R comes with Bridgestone and Goodyear (Dunlop). One tyre gives slightly better times around the ‘Ring. We did it on Dunlop. They’re available with the car.” When‘s Andrew Heasley pushed him for an explanation, well, read between the lines. “We absolutely maintain (that) Tochio Suzuki – the chief test driver on the GT-R program pounded thousands of laps – he got to know every inch of Nurburgring (circuit) and how the car performs on the Nurburgring and hence set that fabulous lap. More than that, I can’t speculate. I can’t explain why they couldn’t match the time.”

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Paris Auto Show: A Short Test Drive in the Electric Mitsubishi iMiEV Fri, 03 Oct 2008 13:01:08 +0000

Take that, GM. Formerly-sick car company Mitsubishi Motors has a working electric car; they’re already testing a fleet of a few hundred units in Japan. The Mitsubishi innovative Vehicle promises a 75mph top speed and a 100 mile range. It’ll take seven hours to recharge the battery using a normal socket (220V). If you’ve got high voltage, figure an 80 percent recharge within 30 minutes. Being a totally new car, the iMiEV benefits from the packaging advantages inherent to electric propulsion. The Li-Ion batteries are located beneath the passenger department, and the small electric engine is rear-midships. Thus, despite a sub-four meter’s length, it’s roomy enough for four. The Innovative Vehicle’s interior is airy but spartan/simple– no expensive materials for a lightweight car that wants to be affordable for commuters. I could only take the Mitsu EV for a few-minutes’ spin in a parking lot, so I can’t verify any of company’s range or speed claims. But acceleration is strong, smooth and silent, the steering is pleasant, and it brakes in a solid fashion. It feels like a proper, developed car, not like a prototype. No magic-year nonsense; commercial sales will begin in 2009. If Mitsubishi can keep their performance promises, this one’s a winner, at least for urban early adopters.

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Paris Auto Show: The Toyota iQ is Smarter than Smart Car Fri, 03 Oct 2008 12:48:16 +0000 Toyota has been showing concepts, prototypes and mock-ups of its 3+1 city car for the last four or so European motor shows, but here in Paris, it's the real thing. The theory of the design language is silly - Toyota calls it "vibrant clarity," but that's a state of mind I'd associate with inebriation. But the design itself is strong, clean and forward-looking. I stood in line to check out the interior of this microcar and found it conspicuously well-designed and made of high-quality materials. It didn't quite pass the international test of anal-retentiveness ("do all surfaces refuse to give way when pressed, and sound similarly solid to a rapped knuckle?") but not to forget, this is a tiny, lightweight car. And a wonder of packaging. My claustrophobiac 184 cm body (that's 6 feet to you Yanks) found the driver's and two passengers' seats snug yet uncramped. For Toyota, the big question is, how the hell to sell the iQ at a profitable price -- meaning, more expensive than its larger models? This is where new technology needs first-class marketing. If they can pull it off, then a Smart death watch may be in order.]]>

Toyota has been showing concepts, prototypes and mock-ups of its 3+1 city car for the last four or so European motor shows, but here in Paris, it’s the real thing. The theory of the design language is silly; Toyota calls it “vibrant clarity” (that’s a state of mind I’d associate with inebriation). But the design itself is strong, clean and forward-looking. I stood in line to check out the interior of this microcar and found it conspicuously well-designed and made of high-quality materials. It didn’t quite pass the international test of anal-retentiveness (“do all surfaces refuse to give way when pressed, and sound similarly solid to a rapped knuckle?”). But don’t forget that this is a tiny, lightweight car. And a wonder of packaging. My claustrophobiac 184 cm body (that’s six feet to you Yanks) found the driver’s and two passengers’ seats snug yet uncramped. For Toyota, the big question is, how the hell to sell the iQ at a profitable price– meaning a higher price tag than its larger models? This is where new technology needs first-class marketing. If they can pull it off, then a Smart death watch may be in order.

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