Frankfurt Auto Show:

Fiesta Revival: Ford Confirms Name of Global Small Car

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We reported on the Verve hatchback and sedan concepts that Ford showed at the Frankfurt and Detroit auto shows during the 2007-08 show season, and now we bring the news that Ford has confirmed the production name: Fiesta! The official reveal of the European three- and five-door hatchback versions is in Geneva in March. When the U.S. sees the car in 2010, it will be in sedan form much like the Detroit 2008 Verve concept.

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Ford is evaluating offering the hatchback in the States as well. Hatchbacks have been gaining in popularity in the States, but this market so far still buys far more sedans than any other car shape. The hatchback would be a nice addition to the U.S. Fiesta range, but the sedan is a must.
Fiesta is a cutesy name, but Ford already owns it. It has equity all over the world, and little, if any, negative baggage in the States. Yeah, there was once a Fiesta sold here, but who really remembers it? For the U.S. market, a bad choice would have been reviving Aspire or Festiva names. The success of this product in the States will depend on the product itself, not whether it’s named Verve or Fiesta.
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Auto Show Season In Full Force

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Three Months, Three Continents, Three Auto Shows: Where Am I?
In the myriad of VehicleVoice posts are stories and podcasts from the Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Los Angeles auto shows. To get these stories, someone needs to attend the shows, and that is very often me.
Auto shows get us close to real cars and the people who created them, giving us our look behind the scenes. As a product analyst for AutoPacific, I attend major shows around the world. Despite sore feet, long hours, pressure to process the information quickly and yet well, and time away from home that tries the patience of both my husband and myself (my cat has given up on me), these opportunities aren’t to be missed.
Like the old traditional model year, my auto show season starts in September in Europe and runs through April in New York. The only thing worse than the travel schedule is trying to cover an auto show from my desk in Southfield, which I’ve also done. Without getting on a plane and being there, we miss the nuances, tidbits, and details necessary for informed evaluation.

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Halle 5 at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show

2007 Show Season Started in Germany
Odd years mean the Frankfurt show in September and the Tokyo show in October; L.A.’s show is annual and now in November. Between January and April, the Detroit, Chicago, Geneva, and New York shows are held. Even years mean Paris in fall. The British Motor Show used to be held in the fall of even years, but they abandoned Birmingham a few years back and a show in London has not gained traction yet. This year, I attended media drives for the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Malibu, a background event with the New Chrysler, and various Detroit-area events between show travel. I’ve just finished my last trip for 2007, in Phoenix to drive the 2009 Nissan Murano.
Between September 1 and December 6, I spent twenty-four days on the road, turned my football-reading-napping Sundays into work-from-home days (at least then I’m near my sports-junkie husband for a whole day), and many late nights in the office. I racked up nearly 34,000 in-flight miles and stayed in seven hotels in seven cities. Over thirteen weeks, I spent about forty days actually in my office.
The pressure comes from getting what I’ve learned written for VehicleVoice readers and for AutoPacific clients, audiences hungry for information but each with specific needs and interests, and doing so quickly enough to be relevant. This means reporting on about 120 major reveals and incorporating uncounted minor tidbits into the AutoPacific Competitive Battleground at www.eautopacific.com along with the stories you see on Vehicle Voice. And, like most employees in most companies, I have several other projects that also need tending.
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Regardless of city, the Nissan GT-R is a star on any 2007-08 Nissan stand


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2009 Mazda6: Frankfurt and Tokyo Introductions Preview U.S. Model

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Zoom Zoom Evolution
It was back in 2001 that Mazda started blasting auto-show attendees and innocent TV watchers with the now-famous zoom-zoom theme. Mazda has remained true to Zoom-Zoom in the intervening years, and the second generation of the first Zoom-Zoom cars are starting to arrive. The Mazda2, not sold in the States, led the evolution this past summer. Mazda’s mid-size sedan (and five-door hatchback and wagon) entry is next, known as the Mazda6 outside of Japan and as the Atenza inside. Though U.S. sales don’t begin until summer 2008, the exterior shown at the recent Frankfurt and Tokyo auto shows, pictured below, is close to what we’ll see then.

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Mazda Atenza Sedan, Tokyo

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Mazda 6 Hatchback, Frankfurt

What we likely won’t see are the wagon or the five-door hatchback, though these bodystyles continue for other markets. U.S. mid-size car segments are dominated by sedans, with a few coupes here and there. For the 2008MY, Mazda gave up the wagon version of the 6, Dodge will drop the Magnum for 2009MY, and Chevrolet gave up the five-door hatchback/wagon-type Malibu Maxx with its 2008MY redesign. Mazda sold fewer than 10,000 wagon Mazda6s in any given year it was available, compared with well over 50,000 sedans annually.
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Mazda Atenza Family

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Mazda 6 Family

The job of the new Mazda6, according to Mazda, is to continue to deepen and evolve Kizuna, the emotional connection drivers feel with the 6. The new face is evolutionary but strong follow-up for a car that was as well received as this the first time around. Kizuna, for Mazda6, embodies three core values. Mazda wants the 6 to offer an emotional and sporty driving experience that creates a oneness between car and driver, to offer an exclusive experience through a comfortable space and high-quality craftsmanship inside, and finally to offer an “insightful package” that balances the first two elements and incorporates logical, well-thought-out, and easy-to-use driver interface and storage areas. Based on our limited show-floor time, Mazda looks to have created a 6 (and Atenza) with the kizuna they are looking for.
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Mazda 6 Sedan


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2009 Audi RS6 Avant: Europe Gets a Treat

Too Bad Americans Shun Wagons: 580HP Avant Won’t Be Part of U.S. Lineup
Audi introduced the RS6 Avant at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show, along with an ultra-efficient A4 concept and a 1.4L four-cylinder TFSI engine for the European A3. The 580HP RS6 Avant, as fuel-efficient as a twin-turbocharged 5.2L V10 engine can be thanks to the direct-injection system, is about as opposite of socially conscious motoring as you get from Audi’s range. The RS6 Avant goes on sale in Europe in April 2008, but in the States not at all.

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As a fan of Audi S and RS cars and of Audi Avants, the 580HP RS6 Avant sounds sublime. But the combination of cost and the wagon shape would make finding homes for a 580HP RS6 Avant difficult for U.S. dealers and it is no real surprise Audi of America is not going to try. European pricing for the latest version hasn’t been announced, but a U.S. version would likely have played in the low-$90,000 range. Consider that a 2008 S6 starts at about $75,000 and that the 2008MY base price difference between the S4 sedan and RS4 sedan is a staggering $18,000. An RS6 Avant price tag in the low-$90,000 range puts it too near the $96,000 Audi S8 and close to the base price of a 500HP Porsche Cayenne Turbo. The European release says the RS6 is available as Avant “to start with” and offers hope for a sedan. Though a sedan would have the same price-point difficulty, it would be more likely to attract enough buyers to justify importing this particular rocket.
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Even more interesting, the RS6 may provide a hint at the potential for a V10-motivated R8 mid-engine sports car. A V10 is expected for the sports car, and simply giving it the S6 and S8’s 450HP 5.2L V10 is not enough of a jump from the 420HP V8 it launched with. Audi didn’t suggest the 580HP unit will wind its way into the R8, but we think it is only a matter of time before some manner of V10 arrives for R8 drivers.


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Suzuki Kizashi and Kizashi 2: A Brand Looking to Grow

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Concepts at Frankfurt and Tokyo Foreshadow Suzuki’s Mid-Size Intentions.
The Kizashi at the 2007 Frankfurt show and the Kizashi 2 a month later at the Tokyo motor show, according to Suzuki, “illustrate Suzuki‘s progress toward developing a D-segment entry.” For American buyers, those are cars similar in size to the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Hyundai Azera. Suzuki’s GM-Daewoo-supplied Verona tried to compete here, but was not a particularly good example of a family sedan, expensive for the Suzuki franchise, and it was dropped from the range after a short sales run in the USA.

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Among the interesting elements of these two international concept cars is that both carry a wagon bodystyle; Suzuki is due to show a third development next year in the United States and it would be a good bet that that car is a sedan and closer to what the production vehicle will be. Suzuki is well aware of the need for the production car to at least include a sedan, having indicated that they are planning a new flagship sedan, despite theses wagon concepts. In the States, four-door sedans dominate car segments. Few wagons survive for long in the cutthroat U.S. mid-size market, and those that do sell a fraction of their sedan counterparts. Wagons fare much better in international markets, where buyers did not take SUVs to heart quite as deeply as Americans. Simply, in the USA, SUVs killed the idea of a conventional station wagon.
The Kizashi 2 in Tokyo takes more aggressive, nearly SUV cues, compared with the sleek Kizashi, but it is still a wagon. Suzuki is looking for a D-segment entry that focuses on status and signals the maturity of the brand.
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BMW 1-Series Gets Soft-Top Convertible

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Sun and Sky for 1-Series, Too
Back in July, we brought you the first official photos and details on BMW’s new baby, the 1-Series. And as if you weren’t looking forward to it enough already, a convertible version has been confirmed. The convertible will arrive in spring 2008 in 128i form first, with the 230HP 3.0L I6. The convertible will also be available with the 300HP version of that I6, just not until later in 2008. Though these photos are of a 125i Euro-spec version, the convertible looks promising.

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Instead of a retractable hard top, the less expensive and smaller 1-Series gets a softtop, which BMW says drops in a mere 22 seconds. Even better, the 1-Series will be available with BMW’s convertible-specific climate control system (which factors exterior temperature and sunlight in deciding fan speed) and the Sun Reflective Technology that helps keeps seating cooler. (We had the chance to experience a 3-Series convertible with the feature followed by a week in the Z4 without the feature; the difference was impressive.) iDrive and navigation will be available on the 1-Series, but not a power wind deflector.
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Personal Note
All in all, 2008 is shaping up to be a good year to buy a BMW. For me, the hot spots are the M3 sedan and 135i coupe; actually, that coupe is probably the vehicle I’m looking forward to most next year. It’s small and light, should be nimble and relatively fuel efficient. I like small cars, and this one on paper seems perfectly sized for our two-person household. But the M3 sedan has its own draw. I can go for the practicality of the four-door over the two-door in the larger M3 package, and the extra 120HP over the 135i should deliver a rush all its own.


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BMW M3 Sedan Returns to BMW Lineup

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2002 Reincarnated, M3 Brings Back a Four-Door
September and October brought plenty of BMW news, all leading up to a hot spring/summer 2008 for BMW dealers. The X6 Concept and X6 ActiveHybrid Concepts shown at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show, previewing a vehicle due by the end of next year, and the show was the backdrop for the formal introduction of both the M3 coupe and the new 1-Series coupe. Also in Frankfurt, a 1-Series convertible was confirmed, with initial photos released shortly afterward. If that wasn’t enough, the M3 sedan returns with a worldwide introduction at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. Just to keep you interested, here are the first photos of the M3 sedan. See a following story for photos of the new 1-Series convertible.

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2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed: Refinements Bring 600HP

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Stunning Coupe Finds Enhancements for 2008
Bentley was among the notable brands bucking the green trend at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show with the 600HP Bentley Continental GT Speed, based on the 552HP Continental GT and also serving as our introduction to minor changes to the GT for the 2008 model year. In these days of extreme environmental concern, the extra power comes with steady improvements to both fuel economy and emissions. Five years on from its September 2002 Paris introduction, the Continental GT is still breathtaking. The 2008MY updates are mostly under this near-flawless metal skin.

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The updated range gets a new top model, for those preferring an even more spirited drive than the GT very capably offers, in the Continental GT Speed. The GT Speed, so named in homage to special Bentleys developed in the 1920s, takes tweaks to the shared 6.0L twin-turbo W12 engine to deliver 600HP to create Bentley’s first 200-plus-mph production car. The GT Speed’s 600HP may be the most inspiring result of this year’s engine modifications, but several apply to both models. The engine, whether GT or GT Speed, gets a new crankcase design, more efficient catalyst and exhaust systems, lighter-weight single chain drive camshaft, and a new engine management system and faster response cam sensor. The GT Speed also takes lighter-weight con rods, new pistons with anodized compression ring grooves, and a recalibrated version of the new engine management system.
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2009 Jaguar XF: Replacing the S-Type

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Jag’s New XF Revives a Commitment to Style and Grace
Jaguar previewed the replacement for their aging S-Type with the C-XF concept at the January 2007 Detroit auto show (click for our story). When the production XF photos were first released in August, contributor George Peterson was quick to praise the new look (click here). After that, the XF had a formal introduction at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show, and we had a chance to get a little closer and look at what Jag is really offering as an S-Type replacement. Depending on market, the order books for the XF opened this month, though the first deliveries won’t be until March 2008. And no launch is complete without a dedicated website, check out www.jaguarxf.com for Jag’s take.

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Jaguar needs the XF to re-establish the brand’s style and luxury credentials in the middle of the lineup. The new XK and XJ haven’t lost that touch, though the V8 engines that give the smaller XF a competitive powertrain in its class leave the larger, more expensive entries slightly behind their competition. And, as Peterson pointed out in his design review, the XJ and XK look too much like recent generations. The out-going S-Type did not age gracefully and, while its style hearkened back to Jaguars of old, the S-Type looked old too quickly in its relatively long lifespan. Further, the lower priced Jaguar X-Type has not done Jaguar any image favors. The all-new XF needs to rekindle the passion of Jaguar and at first blush looks equal to its task.
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With carryover engines, development of the XF focused on styling, creature comforts, and incorporates many driving aids and electronic helpers from the XK. The XF also debuts features like the JaguarSense proximity sensor and JaguarDrive Select gear selector. The XF will be the entrylevel U.S. Jag about the end of the decade, and it has the luxury feature updates it needs, including improved quality of interior materials. The debate will continue on styling, but powertrain and features boxes are all checked, and suspension elements and tricks suggest the driving dynamics will be strong as well.
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Volvo C30 Recharge: GM Is Not Alone with Flexible Platform Concept

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Not at all unlike the GM E-Flex platform in concept, shown first under the Chevrolet Volt and in Frankfurt under the Opel Flextreme, the Volvo Recharge at the 2007 Frankfurt show used a lithium-ion battery pack to power individual electric wheel motors. (Follow this link to see Volvo’s press conference.) The internal combustion engine on board is used for backup and battery recharging only, and has no part in moving the vehicle. The Recharge was designed for plug-in application, with Volvo estimating about three hours for a full charge. Volvo estimated the electric-only range to be about 62 miles, leading the company to note that Recharge would be best suited for those with daily round-trip commutes below that distance. While GM has shown its E-Flex platform with concept-car bodies above, Volvo put their new C30 on top of the Recharge platform.

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