Fleet News

Motor Show Live

The top stories from the Sunday Times Motor Show Live

Great sales hopes for trendy Modus

RENAULT'S new supermini, called the Modus, made its world debut at the motor show.

Labelled as an alternative to hatches in the small car market, the Modus will cost less than £10,000 and is set for a September 6 launch date.

It will be launched with three petrol engines, a 1.2, 1.4 and 1.6, and two 1.5-litre diesels, one offering 65bhp and the other 80bhp. Further diesel engines will be added to the range after its launch.

'People want more versatility and increased space,' fleet and LCV director Keith Hawes said at the show.

The manufacturer expects fleets to account for about 25% of total sales. It hopes the launch of the new model will help Renault's car and van fleet sales this year match record levels in 2002.

Hawes expects the car to be popular with Europe's biggest fleet Motability, the UK charity which helps disabled people and their families become mobile using Government allowances, as well as with the National Health Service and company drivers downsizing, having opted out of a traditional company car scheme.

'It's a car for the young and trendy,' Hawes said. 'We believe it is ideally suited for Motability because of its ease of access and space inside.'

The company is hoping the Modus will achieve a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

On its fleet sales prediction for the year, Hawes said: 'We are heading towards sales of about 120,000 cars and vans. We achieved a record year in 2002 with about that number of sales. Sales are currently significantly up on last year and we are very pleased about that, but our product mix is good.

'Our vans business is also doing very well and we have some very good customers – but we will be placing an even bigger emphasis on customer service as the product range grows.'

Design, drive and diesel prove Vauxhall's recipe for success

VAUXHALL chairman and chief executive Kevin Wale reckons the firm now has the strongest range of cars and vans in its history, and is looking to another record year in fleet.

Speaking at the show, Wale told Fleet News: 'The whole range is going gangbusters. We've got the niche vehicles, we've got the volume cars, we've now got really strong diesel engines and Vivaro has been doing really well, as has the rest of the LCV range.'

He added that with 16,000 orders already, the new Astra, on sale from May 1, was performing above expectations.

'The car has been received well by all markets and is going well in fleet. It's well understood by buyers. We now have a lot of exciting volume cars,' he said.

Wale puts Astra's early sales success down to strong design, a good driving experience and a line-up of latest generation petrol and diesel engines.

Admitting that its diesel proposition has taken a while to catch much of the competition, Wale added: 'We've got terrific diesel engines across the range now, and the CDTi are as good as any on the market.'

Sales of diesel engines at Vauxhall are outstripping the growth in the market, up by 23% year-on-year, compared to 17% growth for the industry.

Wale also launched the firm's new VXR performance brand for road cars.

Managers drive first 407s

PEUGEOT gave 50 fleet managers the chance to sample the new Peugeot 407 first-hand in Birmingham, where the car made its official UK debut.

They were the first customers to drive away the vehicle from the show and were invited by Peugeot director of fleet and leasing, Steve Harris.

He said: 'The 407 is a highly significant car, eagerly awaited by our fleet customers. The four models, six engine options – four petrol and two HDi diesel – advanced technology, driver, passenger and pedestrian safety, driveability and innovative styling all add up to give fleet drivers a highly attractive, economic driving position.'

As well as the 407, Peugeot showcased new diesel models including a 136bhp 307 2.0 HDi and a 110bhp 307 HDi and a 206 1.6 HDi GTi. All engines are Euro IV compliant and are not affected by the 3% supplement on BIK tax.

New Golf aims at record

VOLKSWAGEN claims it is heading for a record year for fleet sales – despite currently being more than 2,500 units down on the same period last year.

The company blames the decrease solely on the run-out of the previous Golf and says that current orders for the new model, launched in January, are at an all-time high.

Head of fleet services Vince Kinner said: 'Our fleet sales are currently down while the market is up. That is purely down to the launch of the new Golf. Orders are at a record level for this new car and we are selling more of the upmarket model.'

But Kinner said all models were performing well.

'There is a lot of interest from fleets in our brand. The Passat is performing well and we still have class-leading residual values. We plan to sell more units to fleets this year than last year, which would make it a record for us.'

Kinner will this year put about 12,000 Volkswagen units into daily rental, with half of those going to Volkswagen-owned Europcar, although he insists he is under no obligation to supply it with cars. The Golf (below) will account for 3,000 units.

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'We use daily rental to put our products in front of corporate users,' Kinner said. 'It works well for us. We can get cars into rental on their day of launch.'

The manufacturer used the motor show to display a range of its models, including the long wheelbase and V10 TDI engine versions of its luxury Phaeton.

Making debuts in the UK were the new three-door Golf, the compact off-road Polo Dune and the concept C, which, although a design study, could be a future Golf convertible.

The four-seater features a new generation fully retractable electro-hydraulic folding steel roof, which also has an integrated sliding glass sunroof.

Ford focuses on sports diesels at biggest-ever stand

FORD presented its largest-ever stand at the Motor Show Live and key new products that shows the firm's future direction, with a focus on sporting diesels.

On the 7,400 square metre stand, the Fiesta Zetec ST made its world debut, powered by a 1.6-litre 99bhp petrol engine or, for the first time, a 1.6-litre 89bhp diesel. The ST was also on show, sporting a 2.0-litre 149bhp engine. Both cars will launch at the end of the year.

In the upper-medium sector, the firm revealed the Mondeo ST TDCi (below) that packs peak torque of 295lb-ft.

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It can reach 62mph in 8.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 137mph, while returning combined mpg of 46.3, while emitting 151 grammes per kilometre of CO2, putting it in the lowest tax band for this year.

Ford of Britain managing director, Paul Thomas, said: 'Ford views the motor show with great importance and this year our presence is bigger than ever, with more new cars on show than ever.

'Motor shows are our biggest showroom, the chance to remind customers of everything we can offer and I believe the Ford range today can truly offer something for everyone.'

'The Fiesta Zetec S and ST mean Ford is back in the heartland of performance small cars.'

A new 3.0 V6 engine with 204bhp was on show in the Mondeo, which is aimed at customers who desire more performance, but do not want the performance image of an ST. Making its British debut alongside the models was the Fiesta RS concept, shown to gauge public reaction to a car that is powered by a 180PS 2.0-litre engine. Given the green-light, it could reach production in two years.

The entire display was backed by a specially created 'Thunderbirds powered by Ford' experience', revealing Ford's association with the forthcoming Thunderbirds live-action family movie from Universal Pictures, which is out on July 23.

  • A NOTABLE absence on the Ford stand was the new Focus, but Ford dismissed any concerns of development problems. Ford of Britain MD Paul Thomas said it was simply the fact that the current Focus was still selling well after six years and 750,000 sales.
    He said: 'Details of the new car will come closer to its launch. The current model is just not a car that is running out of life. We have asked our manufacturing colleagues to build as many of them as they can get their hands on to keep up with demand.'
    As a result, Ford had decided Motor Show Live wasn't the time to launch the new car, but instead it would appear at the Paris Motor Show in September, before its launch in 2005.

    Saab looks to leap in fleets

    SAAB'S closer links with Vauxhall and the introduction of the Euro-IV-compliant 1.9-litre common rail General Motors diesel unit will see fleet registrations leap in the next year, the firm believes.

    According to managing director Jonathan Nash, sales to fleets should increase by about 70%, with total sales up 15% to 20,000. About half will be fleet sales.

    Now that the firm is using Vauxhall's fleet sales team to promote the brand in the corporate sector, Nash reckons that Saab is getting more exposure.

    He said: 'The dealings we have with Vauxhall are more to do with the way we operate, and our exposure to the fleet market has been very small traditionally.

    'They obviously give us fantastic exposure in that. But products such as the new diesel engine have been in the pipeline for a long time and are not Vauxhall-inspired.

    'Saab's always the left-field choice, so we've done a bit of work trying to position it: the car's more competitive from a CO2 point of view, broadening the range with the 1.8i and the diesel – all of those are very positive things.

    'Saab's area is user-choosers, who often buy like retail customers, but what we've managed to do is get the car into more clients and position it more appropriately.

    'The Vauxhall guys feel that we actually add something. At a certain point their brand isn't sufficient to carry them and in their big fleet clients with thousands of cars we can prove useful at the executive, semi-premium level.'

    Nash admitted that sales of the 9-3 had been lower than he would have liked, although he reckoned that a slow burn was typical of Saab and its customers when it came to take-up of new cars. The new entry-level petrol 1.8i and 150bhp 1.9 CDTi – on sale in late summer – should bring new fleet customers to the brand, Nash claimed.

    Fleet boost to Jaguar sales

    FLEETS have led the way in improving sales for Jaguar in 2004 through the launch of new X-type variants and as it continues to roll out its diesel programme.

    Jaguar's total sales in the UK are up 27% for the year-to-date, but corporate sales have increased by 35% with 4,000 sales so far this year compared to less than 3,000 for the first four months of 2003.

    James Drake-Lee, Jaguar corporate operations manager said: 'The introduction of diesel is having a major impact on BIK bills for company car drivers used to driving a petrol X-type. However, diesel in S-type has not yet had an effect because we are launching it now, but S-type sales are already higher year-on-year than in 2003.

    'I think the talk of diesel might have caused people to take another look at Jaguar.'

    As well as the new S-type diesel, Jaguar showed the long-wheelbase version of the XJ saloon, which will be £1,750 more than the standard car when it goes on sale in August.

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    It will be offered with 4.2-litre V8 and supercharged V8 engines in a revised range of XJ saloons while 3.5-litre V8 models will now only be offered in Sport or Sport Premium.

    Octavia set to woo the user-choosers

    THE new Octavia (below) took pride of place on the Skoda Auto stand with executives announcing pricing would start at £10,750.

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    Skoda will target user-choosers with the new model that comes in three trim levels and will eventually offer a choice of six engines.

    These will include two economical FSI petrol variants and at launch a 1.9-litre Tdi 105 bhp.

    The entry-level car, the Classic 1.4-litre 16v, is priced at £10,750 and the top-of-the-range Elegance 2.0-litre Tdi PD Tiptronic, which features DSG transmission, will cost £17,420.

    Full year sales, with all model variants available, are expected to reach 15,000 units.

    Head of business sales John Rooney said: 'This new car is a major story for us in the fleet market. It's more spacious and incorporates the latest Volkswagen Group technology.'

    On brand acceptance, Rooney said: 'Fleet managers accept our brand – they know it is reliable and an attractive proposition for their drivers.

    'Now, our aim is to convince user-choosers, and with the Octavia, I think we have the car to do that.'

    Skoda is aiming for a 50:50 split between fleet and retail and currently it stands at about 60% for retail.

    'However,' Rooney said, 'we don't intend to force any volume into the market. The numbers will always be governed by what our retailers can comfortably dispose of.'

    The company plans to put 1,100 cars into daily rental, partnering both Volkswagen-owned Europcar and National Car Rental.

    New products take Fiat sales upwards

    SALES at Fiat are up this year following a new product drive and the group is hoping the introduction of a new D-segment model next year will further boost its fleet offering.

    Sales have increased by 7% for the first quarter of this year compared with last year – up from 20,146 in 2003 to 21,556 for 2004. However, figures in March alone have increased by 15% year-on-year.

    Tony Dittli, fleet operations manager at Fiat, is determined to get the new model right and boost sales further.

    Speaking at the show, he said: 'The D-segment car will not be launched for at least 12 months in the UK, but it is a model we must get right and at the moment it is at the early stages of development.'

    Dittli dismissed ideas that there are already enough cars in the D-sector and has a sales strategy in mind.

    He said: 'There is always room in the market for quality cars which offer new opportunities for the driver.'

    The new model will be based on the same platform as the Vauxhall Vectra and Fiat wants to create strong residual values with competitive whole life costs.

    The manufacturer is also increasing the number of specialist fleet dealers on its books. It currently has 35 dedicated fleet dealers but is aiming to have 50 by the end of the year.

    Dittli said: 'We are now growing the fleet specialist market to maximise on the opportunity fleet represents.'

    The re-styled Multipla was on display at the show alongside Fiat's new Doblo seven-seater, the Panda SUV and the Trepiuno concept car.

    Primera's changes are all undercover

    CHANNEL 4's TV illusionist, Derren Brown, helped launch the revised Nissan Primera (below).

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    Nissan opted for Brown, claiming the Primera's exterior remains unchanged with changes happening underneath.

    The new model has revised door trims and a new centre console backed by a colour reversing camera as standard on all models except the S. The in-dash display screen has also been revamped with a colour-coded display.

    Nissan national fleet director Dave Murfitt said: 'In the S-grade Primera there is a colour-screen display, previously black and white, and we have also introduced alloy wheels.

    'We have improved the interior, giving it a better feeling of quality. When we launched the Primera just over three years ago it had many innovative features, like the reversing camera and the 'N-form' dashboard. It retains these, but we have also improved the overall package to keep the Primera up to date.'

    Satellite navigation is standard on more models and Nissan has improved the suspension settings on the Primera.

    The Primera is set to go on sale in July and prices are expected to start from £14,500.

    Sporty style in safety

    TOYOTA'S managing director unveiled the new Corolla (below) with styling, safety and equipment improvements at the show.

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    Graham Smith revealed the restyled Corolla has a sportier look including new side and rear skirts, a carbon fibre-style fascia, leather steering wheel and gearshift trim.

    The new model goes on sale at the start of June. Smith said: 'In 2003 we sold more Corollas than any other year. We have made some changes, including its styling and specification which also includes five new colour options.'

    Additional changes to the Corolla include new teardrop headlamps and a restyled bumper.

    Toyota will be launching a new Euro-IV compliant 1.4D-4D common rail diesel version of the Corolla later this year.

    A 3,500-part story

    VOLVO is treating visitors to the show to three facelifts as it gives some of its most important models a mid-life revamp.

    The S60, V70 – highly commended in this year's Fleet News Awards – and the XC70 have all been freshened up, with an estimated 3,500 new parts.

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    All models receive a revised front section, particularly the XC70, which has been given a similar look to the bigger XC90.

    Inside, all models get new trim, while the audio system has also been updated. The Four-C Active Chassis is now an option.

    Fleets will benefit from extended service intervals for five-cylinder engines from 12,000 miles to 18,000 miles, while the top-spec T5 has been increased from 2.3 to 2.4-litres, so power rises 10bhp to 260bhp.

    V70 models with the D5 diesel and 2.4 petrol engines receive a chassis upgrade for improved ride and handling.

    Honda schemes to double fleet volume

    HONDA has plans to double its share of the fleet market by the end of the decade, through a strategy encompassing all areas of the business from product to dealers.

    Speaking at Motor Show Live, James Daulton, UK head of corporate sales, outlined the ambitious plan to sell one in 10 of all fleet cars sold in the UK within the next few years. At present the firm sells one in 20.

    He said: 'We are now very focused on the corporate market. And because we are already strong in retail, our growth as a company will come from corporate business.

    'We are making sure that future product development is focused on the corporate customer.

    'We have got big ambitions in the corporate market. We have a business plan to the end of the decade to be a very significant player: plans for dealers, support, finance, marketing and products to reach that. It's a balanced growth through predictable ownership.'

    Year-on-year, fleet sales have increased by a third for the firm, although Daulton was keen to stress that those figures did not include the impact of the highly regarded Accord diesel, which only went on sale in the spring.

    He said: 'We are outstripping supply for diesel Accords at the moment by a long way. It's difficult for us as we didn't have a customer base in that part of the market, so we can only look at the competitor figures for predicted sales.

    'Accord petrol sales are up, and they might have been up before anyway, but there's been very little substitution between diesel and petrol.'

    Daulton reckoned that a raft of new fleet-focused models, including a diesel CRV at the end of the year and a number of hybrid models in key fleet models over the next few years would lead the charge towards higher sales.

    And the firm's image as a manufacturer of cars for the older generation is changing. Daulton claimed the Accord, the S2000, CR-V and Civic Type R were attracting younger buyers.

    MG promises common rail

    MG ROVER launched its refreshed range of small and medium cars in Birmingham, hoping they will kickstart sales, but hinted that new diesel developments were in the pipeline to boost fleet appeal.

    The Rover 25 and 45, and their MG counterparts the ZR and ZS, were shown to the public for the first time following significant interior modifications and a new-look front and rear.

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    But the cars still use a traditional turbodiesel engine without common rail, unit injector technology (like Volkswagen Group), that first saw service in the mid 1990s.

    Peter Milner, Rover's general manager for fleet sales said improvements were being developed for the diesel engines, and believes the user chooser appeal of the MG range will attract company car drivers despite rivals using more modern engines.

    Mitsubishi plans niche product offensive

    MITSUBISHI shrugged off recent bad news about alliances to focus on what it insists is a bright future, with a new product line-up and rocketing sales.

    Despite DaimlerChrysler recently announcing it was not to increase its stake in the Japanese firm, Mitsubishi insists a join product programme already agreed will go ahead.

    Jim Tyrrell, managing director of Mitsubishi Motors UK, revealed the company had annual sales of 32,250 last year, with only 800 daily rental units, while parts sales hit £75 million and the company turned in a profit.

    Sales in the first quarter of 2004 were 23% up on the same period last year and are expected to rise 24% in 2004 to 40,000 units. Fleet sales are currently at about 14% of sales this year, although they normally average about 10%. Growth was the third highest overall and 40,000 sales are now forecast for 2004, with up to 60,000 by 2006.

    The main growth will come from increased sales of performance cars and SUVs, particularly the L200 which they believe will be unaffected by changes to benefit-in-kind taxation on vans.

    Lance Bradley, sales and marketing director, said: 'The key thing is that we have excellent cars, backed by excellent service which rewards fleet operators for their confidence in our product and their loyalty.'

    It has also stopped production of the Carisma and will not be replacing the model when stock runs out in September.

    An alternative model was available from Japan, but was not felt suitable for the UK market.

    C2 makes some noise

    CITROEN aimed to make the biggest noise at the motor show after teaming up with the world's biggest name in dance music to launch a new special-edition C2 Ministry of Sound.

    Making its debut at the show and on sale from this month, the car is available in 1.6 VTR and 1.4 Furio models, with the added extra of a 200 watt Sony Xplod MP3/CD stereo system and six up-rated speakers. Just 2,000 special edition models are available.

    The Furio is priced at £9,495 while the VTR costs £11,295.

    The latest development in the C2 range reflects massive growth in that segment for Citroen.

    Compared to 2002, supermini sales for the year-to-date are up 40%, while during last year 51,000 of its superminis hit the roads, ranging from the C2 and Pluriel to the C3.

    Citroens also made up one in five of all MPVs sold in the UK last year, with the Berlingo Multispace, Xsara Picasso and C8. Over the past three years, the Picasso alone has notched up 150,000 sales.

    Tucson not too soon for Hyundai

    A NEW entry-level off-roader made its UK debut on the Hyundai stand ready for its appearance in the showrooms in the autumn.

    The Tucson (below) is intended to complement the existing Santa Fe and Terracan and will compete against models including the Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi Outlander and Kia Sorento.

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    It will be powered by three engine options, a 134bhp 2.0-litre and 173bhp 2.7-litre V6 petrol and a 110bhp 2.0-litre common-rail turbodiesel, mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed auto.

    The 2.0-litre petrol offers combined economy of 34.4mpg and 194 grammes per kilometre of CO2, the 2.7-litre has 28.2mpg and 237g/km and the diesel offers 39.7mpg and 187g/km.

    Like all Hyundais, it comes with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty. Prices will start at about £15,000.

    Also on show was the coupe cabriolet, effectively a Hyundai Coupe with a metal folding roof, which is almost certain to reach production.

    High hopes for hybrid

    LEXUS has got high hopes for its RX400h a petrol-electric hybrid version of its RX sport utility vehicle.

    The new model debuted at the show and is set to go on sale in the UK at the start of 2005 but unlike some of the earlier hybrids, the new model has a 3.3-litre V6 petrol engine backed by two electric motors producing 270bhp.

    The RX400h (below) offers improvements in fuel economy and exhaust emissions with Lexus claiming fuel consumption matches that of a standard four-cylinder saloon.

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    Engineers at Lexus developed the hybrid system specifically for the RX400h based on the Hybrid Synergy Drive technology in the new Toyota Prius.

    Fleets discover new Land Rover at show

    BIRMINGHAM witnessed the world premiere of the new diesel Discovery last week using the new six-cylinder common rail engine first seen in the Jaguar S-type.

    Expected to be the major seller in the UK and Europe, the Discovery 3 TDV6 develops 190bhp and 325lb-ft of torque at 1,900rpm, and the engine is modified from its incarnation in the Jaguar with only a single turbocharger and extra protection for off roading.

    The diesel (below) will be accompanied by a 295bhp 4.4 V8, also a modified version of an engine already used by Jaguar.

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    Matthew Taylor, Land Rover managing director, said: 'With the addition of the new diesel engine which has already earned critical acclaim in its Jaguar form, the Discovery 3 TDV6 will offer outstanding power, responsiveness and refinement to our customers when it goes on sale later this year.'

    Phil Popham, managing director of Land Rover UK said large 4x4s continued to be popular among company car drivers despite the introduction of the emissions-based company car tax rules.

    He said: 'Drivers already in the 35% tax bracket will see the Discovery 3 can offer them all they have in an executive car, but with practicality, seven seats and off-road capability and on-road performance.'

    Chrysler pledges higher quality

    CHRYSLER has vowed to improve the quality of its cars to ensure it is competitive with the best in Europe.

    Simon Elliott, managing director of Chrysler Group in the UK, pointed to improvements carried out over the last few years, but said he wanted to ensure further developments were carried out for the expanded range of vehicles on their way to the UK by 2006.

    He said: 'The quality of our products must improve further from where they are today. It's the number one priority for the factory where we have had a further 13 checkpoints added to the production line to ensure the vehicle leaves in perfect condition.'

    Elliott also pointed to successes in quality surveys in the US and said Chrysler is now 'delivering quality as a key fundamental'.

    Chrysler group will double the number of models if offers in the UK over the next few years, with convertible versions of the PT Cruiser and Crossfire (below) this summer, and high-performance versions of the Crossfire and Crossfire Roadster by the end of the year.

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    The Dodge brand will also be introduced this summer with the introduction of the high-performance Dodge SRT-10 – the latest version of the US-built Viper. However, by 2006 Dodge will be offering a range of lower priced vehicles as the 'value' brand within the Chrysler Group.

    Elliott said: 'We have to work with our dealer network to introduce the new brand. It's all very well us introducing new vehicles but we currently have four-car showrooms.

    'There is much work to do in terms of dealer culture and attracting a new type of customer.'

    On Chrysler's motor show stand, prices were revealed for the new Crossfire Roadster, which will go on sale in July priced at £27,995 on-the-road – only £715 more than the coupe.

    The Crossfire roadster comes with an electric roof that folds flat into a compartment in the rear.

    The Chrysler 300C executive saloon, which will be launched in the UK in October 2005 with both petrol and diesel engines, was also seen in the UK for the first time.

    Prices will be confirmed nearer to its launch date.

    A6 range shown before imminent fleet delivery

    AUDI'S all-new A6 range was shown to the public in Birmingham before it arrives with first customers later this month.

    Two petrol variants – the 3.2 V6 FSI quattro and the 4.2 V8 quattro – were on display, although the favourite model is initially expected to be the 3.0 V6 TDI.

    The range starts with a 2.4-litre V6 producing 177bhp and priced at £24,425 on the road, although the four-cylinder 2.0 TDI, available from September should undercut the entry-level petrol by a few hundred pounds.

    A 2.7-litre V6 TDI, producing 177bhp, will join the range by the end of the year.

    The firm expects to double the number of sales of A6 (below) with the new car, up to a total of 15,000 when the Avant estate version gets launched in 2005.

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    The model is the biggest in its class and all come with its acclaimed MMI system.

    Smart's new forfour is the practical city car

    SMART'S new entry in the supermini sector was shown to the British public for the first time before going on sale in September, priced from £8,995 on-the-road.

    The forfour (below) will be the first four-seater smart and will be available with a choice of three petrol engines and a diesel engine, with many of its components shared with the new Mitsubishi Colt.

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    A 75bhp three cylinder 1.1-litre petrol engine will be the entry level unit, followed by a 95bhp 1.3-litre four-cylinder and a 109bhp 1.5-litre engine. A 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel motor will offer a choice of outputs at either 68bhp or 95bhp.

    The Pulse version will be the entry-level variant in the range with Passion at the top of the range, while a high-powered Brabus with sporty styling version will follow.

    The forfour comes with a sliding rear bench seat giving the option of extending passenger space or luggage volume, while the two sections of the bench can also be folded forward.

    Customers will be able to choose from a standard plastic finish roof, a panoramic glass roof (standard in the Passion) or an electric glass sunroof.

    Altea MPV given odd spec names

    SEAT revealed its new Altea range will be priced from £12,850 when it goes on sale in July.

    But the company has ditched the simple S, SE and Sport structure, understood by most customers, and changed it to Reference, Stylance and Sport.

    The range starts with either a 102bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine or a 105bhp 1.9 TDi, both of which are available in Reference trim, with six airbags, air conditioning, ABS, traction control, a CD radio, remote central locking and electric front windows.

    Stylance trim adds electronic climate control, extra audio speakers and steering wheel audio controls, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels.

    Sport models are available with either a 150bhp 2.0-litre FSi direct injection petrol engine or a 140bhp 2.0 TDi, offering sports seats, electronic stability programme and emergency braking assistance and a choice of automatic transmissions. The FSi is available with a Tiptronic automatic while the diesel is available with a DSG automated manual shift.

    SEAT also revealed two new sporty additions to the Ibiza range – the 160bhp 1.9 TDi Cupra and the world debut of the 180bhp 1.8T Cupra. The diesel is priced at £16,000 on-the-road, while the petrol is £15,500.

    The Cupras have lowered suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels and sporty interior treatments.

    The petrol model records a time of 7.3 seconds from 0-62mph on its way to a total of 143mph, while the diesel covers the 0-62mph sprint in 7.6 seconds with a maximum speed of 137mph.

    Mazda specialists to pump up the volume

    MAZDA announced at the show it has finished recruiting a nationwide network of fleet specialist dealers.

    It has signed up 15 dealers specifically set up to handle high volume corporate business.

    David McGonigle, fleet and remarketing director, said: 'These are dealers who have invested in the structures to deal with larger volumes.

    'They have had to put in place preparation depots, nationwide delivery, their own corporate demonstrator fleets and a dedicated corporate sales manager.

    'We didn't look at a map and say we had to have one there, and one there. We really just said, 'who wants to do it?'

    'We're also in the process of recruiting a manager to run that programme, to train dealerships and help them to better serve fleets. It's somewhere above where Mazda used to be.'

    Mazda's fleet sales have been so successful that it is selling 10% more fleet vehicles than envisioned in its business plan.

    Total sales for 2004 are 48,000 units, managing director Phil Waring claimed, with fleet accounting for 35%. In the original business plan, fleet accounted for 25% of sales.

    Waring put the growth down to the Mazda6. He said: 'It has the product-price-proposition that is £1,000 under the competition, which means we have been able to sustain some tremendous residual values for the product.'

    He added: 'We're getting a lot of demand from the contract hire companies and a lot of positive feedback and that allows us to grow the brand without undermining it and harming residuals.'

    Numbers game for MX Flexa

    MAZDA also showed its MX Flexa mini MPV concept (below) at the show, although a debate is raging between Europe and Japan over the naming of the mini MPV, which goes on sale in September next year.

    ##UKMaz--none##

    European logic dictates it is called the Mazda4, sitting as it does just above the Mazda3, but the number 4 is associated with death in Asia and so is not popular at the firm's Hiroshima headquarters.

    Managing director Phil Waring said: 'Naming or numbering the car is very important and we need a decision by the end of the year because it goes on sale next September.'

    Waring has commissioned 'urgent market research' in the UK to see if 5 or 7 could be used as a substitute, and not be confused with the MX-5 roadster and discontinued RX-7 rotary-engined sports car.

    Sales are expected to reach 5,000 units, with many going to fleets.

    David McGonigle, fleet and remarketing director, added: 'It gives us a credible, athletic seven seater. The market is obviously growing and we need to be in that.'

    Flagship Cooper S gets extra streak from those little tweaks

    MINI has increased the price of its range after making some 'subtle tweaks' which includes boosting the power of its flagship Cooper S model.

    From July, changes to the hatchback range include the inclusion of a new five-speed gearbox with modified gear ratios in the MINI One and MINI Cooper models.

    The company said this improves acceleration for both models with torque also improved in the Cooper. The Cooper S has seen an increase of 7bhp, taking its maximum output to 170bhp at 6,000rpm.

    All models get clearer glass headlights and the One and Cooper will have a redesigned front and rear bumper.

    Prices have increased by an average of 2.5% and are effective on all cars produced from July 1. They are: MINI One £10,780, MINI One D £11,695, MINI Cooper £12,100 and MINI Cooper S £15,180.

    The refreshed range went on display at the show, as did its new Mini Convertible (below), a car which made its debut at this year's Geneva Motor Show.

    ##UKMINISoft--none##

    In April, Glass's Information Services said the new Mini Convertible is set to become one of the UK's slowest depreciating cars.

    It said it expected its trade value to be as much as 92% after 12 months/10,000-miles. That means a £14,625 Mini Cooper Convertible will recover about £13,455 after a year.

    MINI general manager Trevor Houghton-Berry said at the motor show: 'Fleet and business sales account for about 15-20% of our total sales. From a contract hire perspective, the MINI is attractive because its residual values are so strong.'

    Kia gears up for fleet niche growth with Cerato launch

    KIA is completing a full audit of its regional dealers to assess their capabilities for dealing with fleet customers.

    The Korean manufacturer is also launching a pilot programme of fleet specialists which will be based at regional locations throughout the UK.

    The group's managing director Paul Williams outlined Kia's plans at the show.

    He said: 'We will be piloting the dealer scheme during the next few weeks. We currently have 136 dealers. However, we don't want to create a big infrastructure which can't be maintained.'

    Kia has its eye firmly on the fleet market with the launch of its new Cerato which made its first UK appearance.

    When the Cerato launches in July it will be the first time Kia has had both a petrol and diesel version in the C-sector.

    There will be a 1.5-litre CRDi common-rail diesel and a 1.6-litre petrol engine.

    Sales are expected to reach 4,000 units, rising to 6,000 in the first full year with fleets expected to account for about 20% of sales.

    Williams explained Kia's strategy for the Cerato. He said: 'We have not announced prices yet, but the specification and aggressive pricing on the Picanto should give an indication of what to expect.

    'In terms of competition we will identify soft targets. There is no point going against models such as the Ford Focus or the Vauxhall Astra.'

    Before embarking on a strong fleet push, Kia is aiming to get a firm foothold on the retail market. Williams said: 'We are trying to get our retail credentials firm before tackling the fleet market. We are not banking on the corporate market but if it comes quicker than we expect it can only add to volumes.'

    Kia's first supermini, the Picanto, also went on sale at the show.

    Eco-friend looks out of this world

    DAIHATSU'S new super-environmentally friendly concept car, which the group claims achieves 170mpg debuted at the show.

    The UFE2, which stands for Ultra Fuel Economy, looks more like a UFO than a car but weighs only 570kg, thanks to its aluminium and composite body.

    The four-seater automatic model has a central control unit with all major controls including a steer-by-wire system replacing the traditional steering wheel.

    A 660cc three cylinder direct injection petrol unit powers the UFE2, backed by a lightweight generator and electric motor.

    Daihatsu also showed a range of customised models. The new Copen (below), Charade, YRV Turbo 130, Sirion supermini, Terios mini 4X4 and the new Extol compact.

    ##UKCopen--none##

    A free leather pack available on the Copen was launched at the show. Worth £500, it includes heated leather seats, leather door trim and a leather steering wheel and is available from Daihatsu dealers until the end of September. World debut for Turbo-S

    Limited Porsche

    A LIMITED edition Porsche Turbo-S made its world debut, with a 3.6-litre engine developing 450bhp and offering 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds.

    The 191mph car signed off the current 911 range, with an all new model on sale in September.

    New launches with eye on companies

    DAEWOO used the show to launch two new cars, including the flagship of its Lacetti range (below), the Lacetti Sport.

    ##UKLacetti--none##

    The 1.8-litre five-door family hatchback is likely to have a price tag of about £12,000, but this has yet to be confirmed.

    Standard equipment in the car, launched in the autumn, includes airconditioning, front and side airbags, power steering and ABS. It has a two-tone leather/Alcantara interior and leather-covered steering wheel and gearknob.

    Also on the stand was its 1.6-litre compact Station Wagon, which is launched in October with price and specification announced later in the year.

    Managing director Andy Carroll said: 'The majority of our business is in the retail sector but we do look at certain areas of the fleet market, such as driving schools and we are talking to local authorities.

    'Our new launches will certainly look at home in company car parks.'

    Material differences

    SUZUKI unveiled its latest three-door Ignis which has been revamped both inside and out.

    The new model is based on the Ignis Sport, using the same bodyshell, but has new seat and interior fabrics, a redesigned front grille and new wheel trims.

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