Striking colours that couldnt be missed at the show included this electric metallic blue Mercedes-Benz SLS Electric Drive

Striking colours that couldn't be missed at the show included this electric metallic blue Mercedes-Benz SLS Electric Drive

As mentioned in a previous blog, it was an an utterly terrific Paris show first press day and there is much to share. So, here's some more news, highlights, thoughts and observations.

  • An interview with Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche's head of R&D, proved very fruitful indeed as he explained the division is now responsible for the Volkswagen Group's forthcoming (RWD & AWD) MSB platform
  • We've seen all manner of coloured brake callipers (red, yellow, white, black) but Porsche's Panamera Sport Turismo concept had GREEN ones to match its e-hybrid badges
  • The rumoured small Porsche roadster is "not a priority" at the moment
  • The Porsche 918 Spyder - due for launch in Sep 2013 - will have the world's lightest V8
  • Chevrolet and Cadillac Europe president Susan Docherty has seen her brand's sales up 5% thus far in 2013 while the EU+EFTA markets are down 8%
  • Docherty sees EVs as a longer term play by GM and, in her previous role based in Shanghai, noted that Chinese buyers already get the technology as so many have never had cars but will trade up from their rechargable bikes - the Volt is just the first step, in other words
  • Kia Motors Europe is also bucking the trend with sales up by 23%, according to sales and marketing chief, Benny Oeyen
  • Docherty sees Cadillac as still "3-4 years away" from having the ideal powertrains and model range she wants but GM is going to go the distance with the brand: "luxury cars started in Europe, we HAVE to compete here"
  • The Chevy president also confirmed right hand drive won't be available for the next Corvette due next year [unlike the planned redesigned Ford Mustang in 2015 - ed], so sales in markets like the UK will sadly remain miniscule
  • Toyota Motor Europe president Didier Leroy told just-auto he wants 5% of the C-segment with the new Auris (current model is 3.6-3.9%); production of the five-door starts in the UK in November, wagon (Tourer) follows in mid-2013
  • Leroy is not worried by the rise of Hyundai and Kia in Europe - "we have many competitors, not just the Koreans" - sees profits for TME in 2013 after a break-even in 2012, and 10,000 more sales in 2012 than for 2011 (Russia is part of TME's 'Europe' unlike some rivals' regional market groupings)
  • Michael Ableson, successor to Rita Forst as head of engineering for Opel-Vauxhall, sees the Adam as the start of a renaissance for the brands but where is the diesel, the automatic option, the cabrio or even a six-speed manual gearbox? (Answers in an interview to follow soon)
  • Ableson also declared that GM's alliance with PSA was "on track" but would not be drawn on shared engineering projects - he would not comment about these latest rumours over shared future small cars in Brazil
  • Some trends that couldn't be missed were the appearance of striking colours such as electric metallic blue (that Mercedes-Benz SLS Electric Drive in the photo above), orange/lemon (Renault Clio) and copper/bronze (Fiesta facelift, Peugeot's RCZ concept)
  • There were several examples of the Golf GTI 'concept' on the VW stand: the Golf ball gearknob remains but a fire engine red slash across the headlamps is new
  • Another new MQB platform vehicle, sharing its wheelbase with the Golf five-door, is the five-door A3 Sportback: its interior is superb but not that much pricier looking than the Golf's (but the A-Class has an even better interior and that's big news considering how the old model was inside)
  • Contrast that with the interior of the new SEAT Leon: it's fine but you can see that this is not a car that will be priced against the Golf
  • GM vice chairman and interim GM Europe president Steve Girsky stated at a media dinner that the 'new' Opel-Vauxhall Insignia (in reality it's an overdue mid-life update) will be more than we might expect, and we'll see it in 2013
  • Speaking of Opel-Vauxhall, an astonishing statistic given by a PR man was that the UK, always GM's largest market in Europe with around 25% of all Opel-Vauxhall sales, now accounts for a full 40% of the combined brands' registrations for the year to date (the total was to the end of last week, he said - the UK market is doing well and Germany is not, thus the huge disparity). So, why do we hardly ever hear the Vauxhall brand name spoken by non-Vauxhall GM execs?
  • There WAS a Chinese manufacturer at Paris, well sort of, hidden away in the hall where the Aixam and Ligier EVs and city cars dwelled - an importer for the French market has rebadged some of DFSK's micro-vans and pick-ups as the MAM STRAGER Gladiator range (these are sold in the UK too - they have a big BMW-style grille)
  • Hyundai's stand couldn't have been more of a contrast to Kia's ultra-modern European look: it felt like it was Mercedes-Benz in the 1990s with lots of engines and gearboxes on display and the highlight a rebadging of the Tucson Fuel Cell as the ix35 Fuel Cell - staffers were handing out bottled water to make you think about the sole emissions of such vehicles
  • A Hyundai Fuel Cell vehicle will be launched in 2015, the company insists
  • MMC's new Outlander PHEV has amazing technology but looks, sorry to say, boring, the only interesting thing is seeing M-I-T-S-U-B-I-S-H-I picked out in silver letters on the bonnet's leading edge, something new for the brand
  • Renault is sticking to an experiment it abandoned a few years back, only to return to it with the Megane: there is no brand name on the rear of the new Clio, just the diamond symbol and the model name (the inevitable Renault-elf sticker in the back window was missing from the show cars)
  • Ford's EcoSport is bigger than the pics would have you believe, something we also noted at the model's European reveal in Amsterdam last month; it was parked beside the new Kuga and, though it wasn't as wide as its big brother, it wasn't that much shorter (including its externally mounted spare tyre)
  • Jaguar's F-TYPE has door handles which pop out (a bit like those on the old Fiat Barchetta) and then remain proud of the body until you drive away, at which point they are pulled flush; inside, the air vents are hidden under a panel on the top of the dashboard; we saw colour-coded paddle shifters on this car too, but the boot is an odd shape and, while the PR man said it would take a suitcase, that seems doubtful (capacity is a claimed 200 litres), and UK prices will start at GBP58,500

Full show coverage: Click here

Author: Glenn Brooks