ONE of the world’s biggest motor shows, the Paris Mondial de l’Automobile, opened yesterday with car makers acknowledging for the first time Europe’s ongoing economic issues and the struggling new car market here.
Speaking at a major corporate function in Paris on the eve of the show, Volkswagen Group chief executive Martin Winterkorn told a gathering of 2000 guests these were “turbulent times”.
“How long will this crisis last and where will the car industry go as whole? There are no easy answers,” he said.
Despite the concerns expressed by Doctor Winterkorn, the show opened with all the anticipated glitz and glamour with more than 80 car and component reveals from the 270 brands represented.
Downsizing, alternative fuels, improved fuel consumption and value for money were the main themes of this year’s show with Volkswagen revealing its much-anticipated seventh-generation Golf hatchback and the hot GTI variant of the car.
Renault, which stole the limelight in Switzerland this year with its tiny Twizy electric car, went more mainstream at Porte de Versailles with its impressively styled fourth-generation Clio light car, a cute baby that will come to Australia in the third quarter of next year as a hatchback and possibly as a small station wagon, according to Renault Australia public relations manager Emily Ambrosy.
“We are taking the five-door hatchback and the RS [performance car] and we are definitely very interested in the [station] wagon but at this point we can’t confirm it for Australia,” Ms Ambrosy said.
On the other side of the coin though the British specialist car makers were not playing the eco-car game.
Jaguar used the show to unveil its long-awaited and much-anticipated F-Type sports car, a compact two-seat convertible viewed by many as the spiritual successor to the legendary E-Type, a car that made its world debut in 1961 and was killed off by Jaguar in 1974.
Bentley, too, showed its desire to be noticed.
It revealed a GT3 racing car based on its Continental coupe and demonstrating, according to new boss Wolfgang Schreiber, that “Bentley is back on the racetrack”.
“This car is a clear and consistent message from our customers that Bentley belongs on the race track and we’ve responded,” Mr Schreiber said.
For its part Mercedes-Benz was having a bet each way, revealing the production version of its electrically powered SLS sports coupe.
In an interesting move, show organisers set up a test track in one of the huge display halls, allowing show-goers to test drive the growing number of electric and hybrid cars on show.