The Geneva auto show is filled with signs that the industry turnaround under way in North America has reached Europe.
Automakers are bouncing back from the downturn of the past two years with a number of production vehicles and concepts in Geneva.
Volkswagen Group, helped by its new subsidiary Italdesign Giugiaro, will unveil an array of concept cars to show the industry it has the design depth, as well as the production capability and the financial strength, to topple Toyota as the world's No. 1 automaker.
BMW will debut the Vision ConnectedDrive, a futuristic roadster concept that shows how driver-assistance systems and infotainment features can be networked via the Internet in ways unimaginable a few years ago.
And Toyota and Honda will bring hybrid technology to the subcompact segment.
Here's a sampling of some of the production and concept vehicles making world debuts during press days March 1 and 2 in Geneva.
Alfa plans to unveil a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe. The lightweight two-seater is to go on sale as the 4C GTA in Europe in late 2012, delighting Alfa enthusiasts who have dreamed of an affordable rwd Alfa since the Duetto Spider was discontinued in 1994. Alfa sources said the 4C GTA could be sold in the United States, but no decision has been made.
Audi will show the five-door RS3 Sportback, which will compete against the BMW 1-series M coupe. It offers a five-cylinder, 340-hp, 2.5-liter gasoline direct-injection engine linked to a seven-speed S tronic transmission and has all-wheel drive.
BMW's Vision ConnectedDrive roadster concept combines a futuristic design with technological innovations. The concept highlights how cars can be part of a networked world. Among the innovations are antennas that replace side-view mirrors. The antennas transmit information to the outside world, capture navigation data, and assist in monitoring traffic and the environment around the car. The concept also has a 3D head-up display that fuses the view of the road ahead with virtual content. BMW also will debut the ActiveE, a prototype electric car based on the 1-series coupe. The four-seat EV is powered by a 125-kilowatt/170-hp electric motor and has a range of about 100 miles.
The Cruze hatchback, which will go on sale midyear in Europe, makes its world premiere. Chevrolet hopes the hatchback will help it better compete in the European compact segment, where 65 percent of sales are hatchbacks. The five-door takes its styling from a concept unveiled in October at the Paris auto show.
With the B-Max, which debuts as a concept, Ford will have a stronger challenger in Europe's small minivan segment, which is led by the Opel/Vauxhall Meriva. The five-seat B-Max will have rear sliding doors.
A production version of the concept will be the smallest offering in Ford's European range of minivans that includes the C-Max, Grand C-Max, S-Max, and Galaxy.
Honda will debut the EV Concept, which the company says hints strongly at the styling direction for Honda's upcoming production battery electric vehicle, the Fit EV. The Fit EV will be introduced in 2012 in the United States and Japan. The automaker also will show a new plug-in hybrid platform integrated into a midsized sedan platform that showcases Honda's next-generation, two-motor hybrid technology set to debut in 2012.
Infiniti's Etherea concept will preview a potential entry-level car aimed at young buyers. Infiniti says the concept has a profile different from anything in the premium compact class, so it is not just a smaller version of a typically conservative luxury car.
Jaguar will mark the 50th anniversary of its iconic E-Type that caused a sensation when it was unveiled at the 1961 Geneva show. And Jaguar will look to the future with the B 99 concept, a midsized sporty sedan. The B 99 was created for Jaguar by the Italian design house Bertone.
Lamborghini will unveil a Murcielago replacement, which press reports have said will be called the Aventador. The new model is lighter and more fuel-efficient than the car it replaces, thanks to an improved power train and a new carbon-fiber body and chassis.
Fiat will highlight its plan to integrate Lancia and Chrysler with the debuts of Chrysler-based models that will be sold in Europe as Lancias. These will be the Thema, a rebadged version of the new Chrysler 300C large sedan; the Grand Voyager, a rebadged version of the Chrysler Grand Voyager large minivan; and the Flavia concept, a rebadged Chrysler 200 midsized car that will be sold in Europe as a sedan and cabriolet.
Mazda's Minagi compact crossover concept previews the automaker's new design theme, which it calls Kodo, meaning soul of motion. The four-door Minagi is expected to reach production as the CX-5, giving Mazda a rival to models such as the VW Tiguan.
Mercedes-Benz aims to win younger customers with two sporty cars: the new C-class coupe and the SLK roadster. The C-class coupe will be offered with an array of active safety and fuel-saving features to help it better compete with the BMW 3-series coupe and Audi A5.The third-generation SLK gets a sportier design with styling cues from the SLS AMG supercar and the new CLS, as well as a new engine range up to 25 percent more economical than current SLK engines.
The Rocketman concept previews a "mini" Mini with a 3+1 seating layout, similar to the Toyota iQ. A front-engine, front-wheel-drive production model could go on sale in 2013.
Mitsubishi will show a concept for a new small car that will be built in Thailand starting in March 2012 for export to global markets. High fuel efficiency and affordability are key features of the four-door.
Nissan's Esflow concept hints at a potential rwd electric sports car. The concept has the same lithium ion battery packs as are used in the Leaf. The Esflow's aluminum chassis has been built around the drivetrain and lightweight seats sculpted into the car's rear bulkhead so they don't need a heavy frame.
Bowing to the trend for greener cars, Porsche will unveil a hybrid version of its Panamera sedan.
Saab's new chief designer, Jason Castriota, will unveil what the company calls "a visionary concept" for its future products. The new 9-5 SportCombi wagon also will make its world debut.
Smart will show a roadster concept called the ForSpeed that may preview a sporty model to expand its lineup. The concept has no roof.
Toyota will show a Yaris gasoline-electric hybrid concept that will become a production model in 2012. The Yaris variant will join the Auris and Prius hybrids in Europe. Toyota also will give a prototype electric version of its iQ microcar a European debut. The automaker plans to launch the car in Europe and the United States. It has a 62-mile range on a full charge.
Italdesign Giugiaro will unveil two concepts for the Volkswagen brand at the show, making Geneva a showcase for design legend Giorgetto Giugiaro's new influence on the styling of VW's future products. Last spring, VW Group bought a 90 percent stake in Italdesign to boost its design and engineering capacity. The two concepts will be displayed on Italdesign's stand. On VW's stand, the automaker will show a concept for a minivan with styling similar to the retro Microbus concept created in 2001 but never built, and the new Golf convertible, which will have a folding soft-top roof and will go on sale in June. Also debuting is a face-lifted Tiguan SUV.
Volvo's V60 station wagon will be displayed with a plug-in diesel-electric hybrid power train. The near-production car will go on sale next year. The hybrid's front wheels are driven by a 215-hp, 2.4-liter, five-cylinder turbodiesel engine. Mounted on the rear axle is a 70-hp electric motor.
(Source: Automotive News)