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Notes From 2006 Paris Auto show

The 2006 Mondial de l’Automobile has arrived, and VehicleVoice correspondents and AutoPacific staff were on hand, gathering information to bring to you. Our first notes are here, but you can count on more to come over the coming weeks. One of the most important of the international auto shows, the Paris show happens every two years. While many of the products shown at Paris are not expected to cross the pond to the United States, it is fun and interesting to take a look at the automotive market in other regions.

Chevrolet WTCC Ultra
GM is using products from the GM-Daewoo tie-up to establish itself in Europe. Entries that had previously been sold in Europe as Daewoos now wear the Chevy bow-tie. The lower-middle C segment is large in Europe, and many players in that segment also compete on rally circuits like the World Touring Car Championship racing series. The WTCC operates more like NASCAR for manufacturers in Europe, while Indy Car and F1 could be said to be more similar. Like NASCAR, WTCC cars are generally based on vehicles available at dealerships. Chevy can claim two wins on the circuit and looks committed to playing there. Also significant about the WTCC Ultra is that its design is an exaggerated version of the direction of future Chevy products, particularly outside of North America. The 2.0L common-rail direct-injection diesel is a version of one offered in the European Chevrolet Captiva, though output for the WTCC is 190HP. The choice of diesel over gasoline-fed engine also gave Chevrolet an opportunity to further develop diesel expertise.


Citroen C4 Picasso
Going up against Renault’s Scenic and Opel’s Zafira, Citroen introduced a seven-passenger people mover. The C4 Picasso gets interesting new technology in a system that helps drivers determine if there is enough space in a particular parking spot as they cruise by, though a similar product for Europe from Volkswagen, the Touran, goes one further and can park for you, as does the all-new Lexus LS large luxury sedan.

Daihatsu Materia
Does a bB sell as sweet as a Daihatsu? With the second-generation of Toyota’s bB (known as Scion xB in the States), Daihatsu has taken over assembly and has added a version for their own range. In Japan, the Daihatsu version is called Coo. Really. In Europe, it is called Materia and was unveiled in Paris. The same size and styling applies, but Europe sees only the 1.5L engine while Coo offers a 1.3L as well. This is the second generation of the model that forms the basis of the Scion xB. Though the bB is one of the smaller entries in the Toyota range, it is one of the larger products to be found in Daihatsu’s lineup.

Ford Mondeo and iosis X
Remember the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique? They were based on the European Ford Mondeo, the third generation of which arrives in Europe early next year. While the Contour and Mystique were off target in the USA, Mondeo became a good seller in Europe and has evolved into a very serious bit of motoring machinery. At this year’s Paris auto show, a near-production concept of the wagon was revealed. It continues a styling theme set by the Galaxy and S-Max, both introduced midway through 2006. No surprise, the three products share a platform and engines as well as a family look.

Based on the same platform as the Mondeo and the Land Rover LR2, Ford showed off its iosis X concept. The iosis X is expected to be launched in Europe, though the concept shown isn’t quite as production-ready as the Mondeo that was next to it. The iosis X concept furthers the face of the iosis concept from Frankfurt in 2005, as does the Mondeo. If only Ford’s North American products could carry such expressive styling!

Kia cee’d/Hyundai Arnejs
Kia’s cee’d production model and pro-cee’d concept ride on the same platform as another Paris show offering, the Hyundai Arnejs. Though this is the platform used for the latest Hyundai Elantra, the versions shown in Paris aren’t scheduled for the States. Both were designed by the design centers in Europe and will be built in Slovakia (the Kia) and the Czech Republic (the Hyundai). These two entries are aimed at Europe’s class C market, dominated by the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, and Opel Astra.


Mercedes-Benz Shows Off AMG CL and 4Matic S-Class
As with several other models, the all-new CL gets the latest AMG 6.3L V8. While a launch date for the States was not specified, the model will deliver 525HP. Standard features will include the Pre-Safe occupant sensor system, AMG styling tweaks, AMG sports suspension built around the standard Active Body Control, and AMG high-performance brakes. The Pre-Safe brakes and Distronic Plus advanced cruise control systems will be options. Alongside the CL 63 AMG, European-spec 4MATIC-equipped S-Class models were shown. In Europe, it will be offered with two V8 and two diesel engines; in the States, the all-wheel-drive system is likely to be used with the S 550.

Skoda Joyster
Skoda showed off a three-door hatchback concept taking the wraparound windscreen cue from their recently launched Roomster. Joyster’s production future is uncertain, but the most interesting elements of this car have nothing to do with the typical engine or even exterior shape. Reaction at the show was strong; though I was near the concept several times after its reveal, the crowd precluded show photos. Skoda offers somewhat different approach to answering consumer demand for including their cars into the technology and infotainment lifestyle. Joyster features docking station for portable computers that runs the car’s infotainment capability when docked into the car. Software can be dowloaded from Skoda for running internet phone, music files, and satellite navigation. The computer can keep you up to date on the car’s running information, like tire pressure and oil temp.

Between the computer setup and the rear tailgate that can be turned into a bench seat, Skoda says Joyster “mutates to become a party zone” at the weekend. Among the interesting facets of this solution is the proprietary nature of the Skoda system; no mention was made of compatability with other software or systems.

Smart fortwo
A disappointment! Though smart was expected to show the fortwo at the Paris show, ahead of spring 2007 sales, they instead revealed illustrations. A hint of the next generation has been shown as a sand sculpture, however, at a volleyball championship event in Germany.

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