Management briefing - Paris motor show overview
Electric and electrifying: Renault Trezor
This second of two management briefings covering the 2016 Paris motor show, summarises the concepts and production models which should matter most in 2017 and beyond.
If the bosses of Volkswagen thought their brand's I.D. prototype would be the stand out star of the 2016 Mondial de l'Automobile, they were only partly correct. Despite claims that the future production car would be as revolutionary as the Beetle had once been, the I.D. didn't scream radical. Or even memorable. Admittedly it was packed with clever technology but nothing about the styling was especially eye catching. Add why will it take four years to bring this electric crossover to production?
VW chose to hold over an updated Golf, which was one of the main surprises of Paris 2016, the other being the absence of the BMW 5 Series. Both these cars will be on sale in early 2017, their motor show debuts now likely to be at AutoGuangzhou or LA in November.
Audi revealed the second generation Q5 to the world in Paris, with most opinions agreeing that the styling worked well, especially given that the new model is larger so as to make room for yet another Audi SUV, the Q4, below it, with another future model, the Q6 e-tron, to be above it. Despite its size, the new Q5 also manages to be around 90kg lighter, version for version. Production is in Mexico, not Germany, this being the first vehicle for Audi's just-opened San José Chiapa plant. Sales in European markets commence in January. That's also when the A5 Sportback and S5 Sportback become available, a couple of months after the Coupe versions which also premiered at the show. The Cabriolets should be at Geneva, followed by new versions of the RS 5 cars later in the year.
For Škoda, Paris 2016 was all about the Kodiaq. This SUV looks like being a big earner for the company and it also shows how the front end of the next Yeti should look. That model will be twinned with SEAT's second SUV, which will be called Arona. They should both enter production at Škoda's Kvasiny plant in late 2017 after debuts at next year's Frankfurt IAA.
Porsche, the other large volume part of the Volkswagen empire, revealed the first car for the Group's Modularer Standardantriebsbaukasten (MSB: modular standard drive train system) platform. Porsche engineered this architecture, which will also be used by Bentley for the follow-ups to the Continental GT & GTC, Mulsanne, Flying Spur and a second SUV to supplement the Bentayga. Audi's next A8 and S8 plus the A9 and S9 had seemed a certainty for MSB but will instead be based on a different all-aluminium architecture, according to the Ingolstadt grapevine.
Renault, Europe's new number two brand, cemented its position ahead of Ford - absent from the show - with a cluster of new cars. The Grand Scénic made its public debut along with the facelifted Clio, while the Alaskan had already been seen at the Hannover IAA for commercial vehicles. Pick-up sales in Europe are set to take off, or so Renault-Nissan and Daimler believe. Mercedes-Benz' version of the Nissan Navara/Renault Alaskan wasn't in Paris but it will be shown to the media very soon.
There was some major news for the Renault Zoe at the Mondial. This little car is a real sleeper, with its Europe-wide sales continuing to rise almost unnoticed. A mid-life facelift hasn't yet happened but instead, there is a new battery pack which dramatically extends the range to an NEDC rated 400km or 250 miles.
In real-world driving, Renault estimates the new (41kWh) Z.E. 40 battery has a range of 300km (186 miles) in urban or suburban areas. The Zoe with the 22kWh battery remains on sale. This has an NEDC rating of 240km (149 miles) or 170km (106 miles) according to Renault's real world rating.
Opel could do with a couple of larger new models, the Insignia being one. The second generation is likely to be revealed at the IAA in September 2017 but something to replace the Antara is needed before then. Opel and Vauxhall each discontinued this model and nobody noticed, but why GM Europe does not offer anything in the Qashqai, Tiguan and Kadjar class is beyond comprehension. Especially when it was so far ahead of the competition with the Mokka, newly facelifted and renamed Mokka X. Probably, the follow up to the Antara is closely related to the next and recently announced Chevrolet Equinox. And a larger SUV to take on the Edge might be twinned with the GMC Acadia. This is what GM Holden will be doing to gain two new SUVs so Opel/Vauxhall could follow that strategy.
The Ampera-e had its debut at the show but will it sell any better than the Ampera, a famous flop as both an Opel and a Vauxhall? The original Chevrolet Bolt looks set for success in the US but perhaps GME would have been better off waiting for a smaller EV. Vauxhall Motors has hinted that it prefers to do just that. The Bolt/Ampera-e has been engineered with right-hand drive in mind but the business case doesn't stack up, and neither Chevrolet India nor Holden sees any potential for an RHD car either.
In many ways, the Nissan Micra was one of the more important debutantes at this event as it will be manufactured in France, China, Mexico, Thailand and India. Europe's third generation model was built in England, the current one is sourced from India (and has not sold well) and now Nissan is trying a different factory: Renault's Flins plant. Average annual production has been announced as 82,000 cars. Most journalists seemed to think it looks terrific and design will be a strong factor in how well the mark 5 Micra sells. The potential additional volumes will also help Nissan Europe in 2017 after Note production winds down in the second quarter: this model has not been a success and is being culled even though the lifecycle should in theory have another three years left to run. The Note's place at Sunderland will effectively be taken by increased Qashqai build.
FCA Europe didn't have much in the way of new cars on its brands' stands. There was an alternate engine for one Ferrari and a new bodystyle for another, while Maserati has slightly revised the Quattroporte - you'd hesitate to call it a mid-life facelift. Fiat, Lancia and Jeep had exactly zero new models.
In contrast to FCA, Groupe PSA had three important new vehicles: the 3008 and 5008 for Peugeot and the C3 for Citroën. What about DS? What about it indeed. Where are the urgently needed new models and in particular SUVs? This brand is sinking fast in both Europe and China, its two supposed main markets. ACEA's latest numbers show DS deliveries having fallen by 4% during the first eight months of 2016 and by a worrying 17% in August. China? The market was up by 26% in August according to CAAM but DS registrations plunged by 35% and numbered only 10,459 for the year to date. September registrations just released for France show DS down 12% in a market up by 2.5%.
PSA is still suffering from the after effects of the Great Recession in that its management has chosen to preserve as much cash as it can, with DS division being the main victim of that policy. Happily, Citroën's models are being renewed and the new C3, with its Juke-esque front end, should do well, as should the new 5008, now an SUV not a minivan, and the 3008. The C3 is in fact needed urgently for Citroën, which saw its share of the home market drop to a record low of 8.6% in September.
Citroën's CXperience concept was a good attempt at trying for a new way to be competitive in the Octavia/Superb/Passat & CC class, which is to come up with a 4.8m long family car that looks anything but boring. Will something like this be built? Probably not, but at least it shows that some within PSA see that Citroën was once a near-premium brand (as indeed was Peugeot) and could be again. Trouble is, DS is in the way of any potential for either of these core brands to be extended upwards.
Another troubled make in Europe is Honda. It believes the answer to its problems is a new Civic five-door. This comes complete with the same clumsily-integrated side marker lights which the car it is now exporting to North America must legally have. There are lots of strange angles to its styling and that's even before you see what the future Type R, displayed at the show in prototype form, looks like. Nobody seemed to notice that there wasn't one word at Paris about a diesel Civic - has Honda Europe abandoned its superb 1.6-litre engine? The Civic will without a doubt give HME's sales a big lift in 2017 but it seems a strange strategy to be basing the future of the Swindon plant on one product which has never been a major seller in its European market size class. We all know how in-demand SUVs are, yet CR-V production at Swindon ends in 2017 and the replacement model will be an import to the European region, so if the Civic doesn't live up to expectations...
Hyundai-Kia used Paris to reveal two new big sellers, the five-door hatchback versions of the i30 and Rio. There are large global sales goals for both these cars and additional bodystyles will follow: an estate and a low-roof four-door coupe for the Hyundai and a sedan version of the Kia. The four-door Rio will be mainly for the USA and China as is the case with the present generation car.
Toyota had nothing new at the show though it insisted that the C-HR was a world premiere as the car's interior had not been revealed when the Coupe-High Rider first appeared at Geneva. TME is taking a risk by offering this rival for the Juke with petrol and petrol-electric powertrains only. Production is in Turkey but Toyota is yet to say whether or not the Adapazari plant will supply all markets worldwide. US sales will commence in April so expect an announcement on a second production location in due course. Paris was just a little too early for the next Yaris, which should be revealed in Japan as the Vitz in December. Expect TME's Valenciennes plant to begin tooling up to switch over to the new model, which will have a new platform (TNGA-B) around this time next year.
Lexus had a wild looking design study on its stand, the UX concept sharing its 2640mm wheelbase with the C-HR, suggesting it too was based on TNGA-B. Audi is first into the segment which a potential production model inspired by the UX could enter. Toyota might well be waiting to see how the Q2 sells before committing resources to the development of a Lexus B-segment SUV. Building such a car at Burnaston in the English Midlands would be an intelligent move.
Infiniti had no new car world premieres but what it did have was its badge on a Nissan-developed variable compression turbocharged petrol engine. Unlike Volvo's gamble on abandoning all engines with a capacity of more than 2.0-litres, Nissan isn't yet ready to ditch all of its V6 and V8 engines, but the future VC-T will likely gradually replace the 3.5-litre V6 in many next generation models. That would include the QX50, Q70 and maybe even the QX70, if not the giant QX80.
Of the major premium brands, BMW disappointed by not bringing the 5 Series to the show, despite having revealed some details about the car in the weeks leading up to the Mondial. Instead, Paris was all about another future model, the X2. This compact SUV, which has the F47 project code, will be built in Germany alongside the F48 X1 at Regensburg. Think of it as BMW's Evoque.
Daimler had a busy show, with the electric versions of both smart models displayed for the first time, as well as multiple new AMG-Mercedes and Mercedes-Benz vehicles such as the E-Class estate and roadster versions of the AMG GT. Then there was the confusingly named Generation EQ SUV concept. Without its illuminated three-pointed star virtual badges, this could have been a large electric 4x4 from any number of car companies. A production model is planned and this will take on the Audi Q6 e-tron and Tesla Model X. It is likely to be manufactured at the Bremen plant from the second quarter of 2018.
Daimler has developed an adaptation of MRA, its RWD/AWD architecture, as the basis for multiple future EVs. This platform is scalable in every respect and usable across all models: the wheelbase and track width as well as all other system components, especially the batteries, are variable. The basic architecture, a mix of steel, aluminium and carbon fibre, is suitable for SUVs, saloons, coupés, cabriolets and other bodystyles, Daimler's information to the media states. Whatever the Mercedes-EQ SUV is called in production form, it should be the first model for what is rumoured to be named the EVA architecture.
Another maker of premium priced vehicles gave a key new model its show debut in Paris. That was JLR, which had no new vehicles for Jaguar but instead the first four-cylinder engine in a Range Rover Sport, plus the third generation Discovery. L462, the big new seven-seater, won't be available until 2017, and it will use the Discovery model name worldwide - vehicles for the Middle East and North America are currently sold with an LR4 badge. Perhaps surprisingly, the US importer has already announced that its model range will include a diesel (as well as a supercharged gasoline V6). L462 has lost 480kg compared to the existing, second generation Discovery thanks mainly to an aluminium architecture. Despite that, JLR's Ingenium 2.0-litre petrol engine is not part of the named line-up of powertrains.
Mitsubishi Motors had its usual modest presence at the Mondial, this year displaying an SUV concept, the GT-PHEV. A technical highlight was the claimed range on battery power alone, which is said to be up to 120km. Some of the styling details will probably be used on the next Outlander, which is due in 2019.
SsangYong, another brand with a less than one percent market share across Europe, brought the LIV-2 concept to Paris. This showed the dimensions of next year's Rexton successor, currently being finalised and developed under the Y400 codename. Mahindra and Mahindra will have a couple of its own SUVs on the same platform.
Some might say Paris 2016 was a curious event. After all, fuel prices are low, people continue to buy SUVs in record numbers and yet the industry revealed one electric vehicle prototype after another. They might be rising strongly in some countries, such as the UK, yet EVs still make up only a tiny percentage of passenger vehicle sales across Europe. In two years' time, as ever more stringent emissions laws come into force, all that might have changed. There again, Ford of Europe's experience with the Focus Electric could serve as a warning: OEMs may need to be careful not to spent too much developing lots of emissions-free cars which only a small minority of fleet and personal customers might be interested in buying.
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