As GM, Ford and Chrysler have shown, the best way to deal with a deep downturn in your home market is to invest in products and be ready for an eventual upswing. Glenn Brooks saw for himself at the Paris motor show that the smarter players are placing themselves in just such a position.
For BMW Group, the Paris show marked the unveiling of a forthcoming rival for the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, the oddly-named Concept Active Tourer. This was no less an event than the world’s first sighting of a front-wheel drive BMW. Its UKL1 front- and all-wheel drive architecture will also be used for next year’s third generation of BMW Group’s Mini range.
Mercedes-Benz also used Paris to push its small cars, the new A-Class being all over the stand on the press days, despite not being a global debut (it’s about to go on sale in France). There was also a preview of a plug-in B-Class and another electric car, the production version of the former SLS AMG E-Cell concept. With Audi due to launch its R8 e-tron soon, it looks as though next year marks the start of the battle of the battery-operated supercars.
Toyota Motor Europe continues to recover from its sales crash of the last few years, the second generation Auris being its new weapon in the crucial C-segment. As well as a replacement for the five-door hatchback (there is no three-door this time), there’s also now a wagon and a hybrid option for both body styles. With the next generation Avensis due out in 2013, next year is shaping up to be an especially good one for TME. We’ll also see a smaller capacity hybrid powertrain for the Lexus GS within the next twelve months, and this should also show up under the bonnet of a new IS range.
For Nissan Europe, 2013 is also looking as though it will be a good year. The big-selling Qashqai will finally be replaced after an unusually long seven-year lifecycle – unusually long for a Japanese brand product that is – while the second generation Note enters production at the Sunderland plant, as does the Leaf. Capacity for the Note is stated as 100,000 units per annum, with a further 50,000 units possible for Leaf build. Renault, incidentally, is about to begin building another car that uses some of the Leaf’s EV technology – the Zoe is being manufactured alongside the Clio at Flins in France, with sales due to start in early 2013.
Hyundai and Kia, two brands whose sales are now way ahead of both Nissan and Toyota’s in Europe, just keep on delivering new and additional models. At Paris, Kia had the second generation pro_cee’d, plus the new Carens (Rondo in some markets), while a replacement for the Carnival/Sedona MPV is due to appear at the Detroit show in January. This one won’t be coming to Europe though – the full sized minivan segment has contracted too much.
Hyundai launched the i30 three-door at the Paris show. This, the twin of the pro_cee’d, was displayed alongside the ix35 Fuel Cell, the company having decided it wanted to start talking about the possibility of future models which will run on hydrogen. When will we see such a car in Hyundai showrooms across Europe? The perhaps surprising answer is as soon as 2015, by which time it plans to be building about 15,000 such vehicles annually for a variety of global markets. As a warm up, 15 zero-emissions hydrogen-powered ix35 Fuel Cell vehicles have just been delivered for lease to the Municipality of Copenhagen.
Fiat had an uneventful Paris show, 4×4 and methane-petrol versions of the Panda its only world premieres. We did get to see the inside of the new 500L for the first time though, and the model names of two new Maseratis were announced: ‘Ghibli’, a future BMW 5 Series sedan/M5 rival, and ‘Levante’, a restyled and Ferrari-engined Jeep Grand Cherokee. No sign of a facelift for the Fiat 500, the promised 500XL replacement for the long-dead Multipla MPV or the 500X, the latter, a twin of a future B-segment Jeep now understood to have been pushed back to 2014.
Volvo Cars surprised many by calling a crossover version of the V40 that it revealed at the Paris show ‘Cross Country’ rather than XC40 as had been expected. Production numbers will be small and oddly, the car will not be exported to the US. Might a proper XC40 be on the way, complete with a higher ride-height? That one would surely sell well in North America, and elsewehere.
VCC stated recently that the Torslanda plant adjacent to its Gothenburg HQ is to be shut for a week. Somehow it got away with blaming the production stoppage on “a continued decline of the automotive market, primarily in Europe”. Hmm.
Torslanda builds the V60, a good car that’s doing deservedly well in the UK, one of its main markets. It’s also where the following models are made: the S80, last facelifted three and a half years ago; the XC90 which is now ten years old, has been facelifted three times to keep it selling and won’t be replaced until 2014; plus the V70 and XC70 which have not had a styling refresh for five years. I’m baffled by why this company has chosen to neglect so many products and then expect the automotive media to soak up the chosen PR spin.
I hope the rumoured S80 L update turns up at AutoGuangzhou next month, followed by a freshened S80 and XC70 at the LA auto show, with mid-cycle facelifts for the S60 and V60 perhaps to debut at Geneva in March.
Volvo and all the other firms which have in some cases needed to cut spending on new products will, we assume, be launching a lot of models in 2013. That can only be a good thing – just look at how the European market sales of VW, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia and Land Rover have risen this year as they continued to roll out fresh products one after the other.
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