Fleet News

Geneva Motor Show 2005

FULL coverage, including pictures.

More motor show pictures.

Zafira combines safety and power

VAUXHALL’s new Zafira (pictured) provides even more of what customers have come to appreciate about multi-purpose vehicle motoring, it claimed at Geneva.

The revised model has more versatility, better dynamics, higher safety levels and substantially improved quality, said GM Europe president Carl-Peter Forster.

But the first Vauxhall model to comply with new pedestrian safety legislation will offer something extra when it comes to performance – like the Astra, it is also due to come with a 240bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.

‘That means the VXR version will have even more of what our customers expect,’ said Forster.

Featuring improved stability control and a new overhead storage system, the seven-seat model has a redesigned seating arrangement to provide greater flexibility.

Vauxhall dealers will soon be offering test drives lasting as long as three days under a new plan aimed at boosting showroom sales, it was revealed at the show.

But GM Europe officials made it clear that an extended loan campaign announced at the show will be restricted to retail customers.

A spokesman said: ‘We don’t want our Million Mile Test Drive to cut across the programme we already have in place for the fleet and business car market.’

Nissan picks up on pick-up popularity

NISSAN believes its new Navara, on sale later this year, will appeal to working fleets and drivers wanting a 4x4 for leisure activities.

Brian Carolin, Nissan Europe’s senior vice-president, sales and marketing, said: ‘We are confident Navara will appeal to an ever wider customer base than Pickup achieved.’

Available in two different formats – Double Cab and King Cab – the pick-up is due for a September UK launch.

The four-door Double Cab has a three-seat rear bench and the King Cab has two occasional seats in the back for children, which adults could use for short journeys. Both come with a 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine.

The vehicle was designed alongside the recently-launched Pathfinder and will be built in Barcelona. Pricing will be announced closer to launch.

Nissan’s stand was also home to its Zaroot show car, which will not be produced in its current form but is used to gauge reaction with some elements likely to make it into the next X-trail.

Joint project launches new city car

TOYOTA hosted the world premiere of its new city car, the AYGO (pictured), a joint project with two other manufacturers that will see the firm within striking distance of selling one million vehicles a year in Europe.

In 2004, Toyota sold 915,966 units, including Lexus, and has set a target of 980,000 for 2005. When AYGO production starts in the Czech Republic this year, it will add 100,000 units annually.

The UK was Toyota’s largest market in Europe in 2004, with 138,097 sales, a rise of 3%.

AYGO will be offered with a 1.0-litre variable valve timing three cylinder petrol engine, claimed to be the lightest production car on the market at 69kgs. It offers 67bhp at 6,000rpm and 68lb-ft of torque at 3,600rpm.

Fuel economy is around 62mpg and CO2 emissions are 109g/km.

There is a choice of five-speed or clutchless manual and ABS and brake force distribution, front airbags and a CD/ radio are standard.

Also on the stand, a new 2.2-litre diesel engine was unveiled for the Avensis in two versions, with the first offering 173bhp, which will take the saloon to 62mph in 8.6 seconds, while another version offers 150bhp.

The 177bhp version comes with a diesel catalyst that slashes emissions of oxides of nitrogen and particulates, which Toyota claims makes it the cleanest diesel engine in the world.

The 2.2-litre engine comes mated to an all-new six-speed gearbox and offers CO2 emissions of 157g/km for the 150bhp version and 161g/km for the 173bhp version.

Ford paying dividends

A DECISION to offer product quality instead of the best deals is starting to pay dividends for Ford with UK company car buyers, the firm claims.

The move to seek only market share growth that makes a profit has played a key role in bringing Ford of Europe into the black after several years of loss-making, company president John Flemming said in Geneva.

As Ford rolled out new four-door saloon and ST versions of the Focus (pictured), Flemming said: ‘Anyone can achieve market share by giving product away, and it’s true that we suffered a little when we distanced ourselves from chasing volume and began turning down deals that didn’t make economic sense.

‘But the strategy has proved to be right and it will be continued. We don’t have a specific plan to maintain our 28 years of market leadership in Britain, but we will only remain in that position if we can continue to convince our customers that we have the right products and that we can make the right business case.

‘Being flexible in manufacturing means we are able to deliver niche products at much lower cost and this is where we see a real opportunity for the future. Enjoying the benefits of scale no longer entails having to build 500,000 of the same units every year,’ he said.

Ford of Britain managing director Paul Thomas claimed the 526-litre bootspace of the Focus saloon was the biggest in the C-segment and would prove popular with fleet buyers. He said: ‘While we don’t expect the Focus to equal the 70,000 annual sales that used to be achieved by the Orion, this car has the elegance that will appeal to many customers.’

The four-door is available in Ghia and Titanium trim and with a range of petrol and diesel engines but the ST, which uses a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine to produce higher power than the original RS model, will not reach the showrooms before September.

Ford used the show to unveil the unveiling of its Sport Activity Vehicle and claimed to be establishing new territory in the marketplace.

The concept, offering three rows of seats and radical interior styling, offers the first indication of the future of Ford of Europe’s design direction.

Positioned between the Ford Galaxy and Mondeo, the Ford SAV Concept includes remote control rear sets. At the touch of a button, the three individual seats, which form the SAV Concept’s rear seat row, can be reconfigured.

A Citroen for individuals

CITROEN will think in terms of hundreds of sales rather than thousands when its most expensive model is launched in Britain next year.

Marketing for the C6 limousine (pictured) is still at the planning stage, but the slinky flagship car is unlikely to be featured in national advertising campaigns.

A spokeswoman said: ‘Our thinking is that selling this car calls for a rather different approach.

‘We’re convinced it will appeal to motorists who don’t want to follow the herd and people who are entrepreneurs tend to have higher expectations.’

Riding on an adaptive Hydractive3 suspension system developed from the Citroen C5, the car takes its name from a large luxury model produced by the French firm in 1933.

A spokesman added: ‘This will not be a high-volume fleet vehicle, but we expect most purchases to be funded by company money.’

Due in the showrooms by spring, the car is based on the Lignage concept unveiled at the Geneva event in 1999. Thought to be the longest Citroen yet, it has a distinctive concave rear window and a bootlid spoiler that raises automatically as the car’s speed increases.

Built on the platform used for the C5 and Peugeot 407, the C6 will offer the choice of V6 petrol or turbodiesel engines and its equipment will include head-up display instrumentation and active headlamps. It is expected to cost around £30,000.

Honda aims at fun in Civic makeover

A BRAVE new direction for the Honda brand was revealed on the firm’s stand when it took the covers off what will become the next-generation Civic.

The model is aimed at producing a much more enthusiastic reaction from buyers, to tempt them away from rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf while lifting the marque above mass-market competitors.

The eye-catching looks are a world away from the current model, with the proposed five-door looking like a coupe, as the rear passenger door handle is hidden in the window frame.

Takeo Fukui, president and chief executive officer of Honda Motor Company, said: ‘A total of 16 million Civics have been sold worldwide and we plan to advance this all-new model by appealing to our customers’ emotions based on the concept of ‘fun-to-drive’. While this is not the mass production model, it is very close to the final styling.’

It is a gamble as nearly one-third of Hondas sold in the UK every year are Civics. The ratio is roughly the same in Europe.

Ken Kier, European vice-president and managing director of Honda (UK), said: ‘I have driven it and I am really excited about the opportunity this car gives us in the market.’

In the fleet market, the firm believes it will play a key role in its stated target of being the chosen brand of one in 10 user-choosers.

The final production version of the new Civic will make its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September before sales begin across Europe in January 2006. The new Civic, which will be built exclusively at Honda’s manufacturing plant in Swindon and will come with the acclaimed 2.2-litre diesel engine already fitted to the FR-V, CR-V and Accord, arrives in the UK in 2006.

Also appearing on the Honda stand was the Legend European prototype, which will include what is claimed to be the world’s most advanced four-wheel drive system. Specification of the European version has yet to be finalised, but the model is expected to make its sales debut next year.

Skoda shows off Yeti SUV concept

SKODA is gauging interest in its SUV concept Yeti design study, which gives a glimpse of the future for Skoda cars.

It is designed for ‘active people’ keen on leisure pursuits and one feature of its design is that the lower part of the boot door is able to transport two bicycles.

A spokeswoman said: ‘It’s an idea of what is coming – but it’s here to judge people’s reactions and see what they believe works for the vehicle and what doesn’t.’

The company is placing a major emphasis on boosting sales to fleets this year and within the next few weeks will have doubled its business sales team to six people.

It has also announced that head of business sales John Rooney is moving to a new position within Volkswagen, in vehicle logistics, and will be replaced by Martin Burke, who has worked for the Volkswagen Group for 20 years. Skoda is also establishing business sales centres in 30 of its retailers to concentrate on sales to smaller fleets.

New Leon set for launch

SEAT used the show to give a taste of its future Leon, out in the UK by the end of the year. The company had on its stand at the show a sporty prototype model which was packed with technology.

Pricing will be announced nearer to launch, as will engine derivatives, although the car featured boasted a turbocharged 196bhp FSI direct-injection petrol engine, as used in the Golf GTI, which could form part of the range, although at a later date. The prototype also included four video cameras to show different viewpoints around the car, two monitors and a DVD player.

Funky Zoe joins Renault

EVER wondered what a small city car could look like if Renault were to launch one? Then look no further than the funky Zoe, shown as a concept car at the show and one that meets motorists’ demands for ‘compact, appealing and dynamic’ models, bosses say.

It features a three-seat layout, has a 1.2-litre petrol engine, CO2 emissions of 140g/km and a five-speed gearbox with steering wheel-mounted sequential paddle controls.

Patrick le Quement, Renault senior vice-president, corporate design, said: ‘Zoe is a vehicle designed for city life. It has been shown that cars carry only 1.4 people on average, but two-seat interiors are perceived as a constraint.Zoe is a genuine three-seater complete with a boot behind the driver’s seat, all built into a compact architecture.’

Renault also used the show to launch its revamped Laguna. It gets a new front design, in the headlamp and grille, plus new rear lights and bumpers. As previously revealed, the French manufacturer has pledged fleets better quality on its new Laguna than on the model launched in 2001 (Fleet NewsNet, February 17).

407 concept on display

ONLY the wheels will be different when this sleek new version of the Peugeot 407 Coupe goes into production later this year.

Due in the showrooms early next year to replace the 406 Coupe, the Prologue concept has already been approved as the French company’s D-sector flagship model, company officials revealed at the show.

Powered by a V6 HDi turbodiesel engine fitted with a maintenance-free particle emission filter, the stylish showcar produces more than 200bhp and 324lb-ft torque and has a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic sequential control.

Standard equipment includes directional xenon headlamps, front and rear parking assistance, laminated side windows and a telematics system with a seven-inch colour display. Its price has yet to be announced.

New Passat in line-up

VOLKSWAGEN’S new Passat joined a line-up that included the Golf Plus, Phaeton V6 TDi and Touareg W12 Sport on the manufacturer’s stand.

The Passat, due for a May launch, will initially get four engines – 1.6-litre FSI and 2.0-litre FSI petrol and 1.9-litre TDI and 2.0-litre TDI.

It will have new four-link rear suspension, new transversely-mounted engines and a new body. The car will be Bluetooth-compatible and have an electronic handbrake as standard as well as dual-zone climate control.

New products enhance BMW

BMW has announced plans to build two new cars – one a people carrier and the other a vehicle that crosses a coupe with raised seating associated with sports utility vehicles.

Chief executive Helmet Panke made the announcement at the show and said it was part of the manufacturer’s aim to continue launching new products.

Panke said: ‘We are using the strength of the BMW Group and pushing emphatically ahead with the extension of the vehicle range.

‘We will be further expanding with two completely new independent model series, thus continuing the profitable growth of the BMW Group.’

The MPV vehicle will be built in Germany and has the working title of the ‘space-functional concept’ while the other unnamed model aims to ‘open up a new market segment’, Panke told show visitors, and will be built in the US.

He added: ‘With both these models, our production direction will be taken to a new phase.’

Other new models on the BMW stand were the new 3-series, which goes on sale in the UK this month, a revised 7-series, which gets a new headlamp, grille and front bumper design and changes to the rear, the BMW 130i, a 258bhp car powered by the world’s lightest six-cylinder petrol engine and a combined fuel consumption figure of 31.4mpg, and a 507bhp M6.

Panke said the group achieved its strongest ever January for sales this year and provisional figures for the year so far look set to have increased by 7% on the same period last year.

Merc engine lifts diesel crown

MERCEDES-Benz staked its claim to leadership in diesel power technology when it took the wraps off a new twin-turbocharged engine at the show.

Fitted under the bonnet of a Vision concept sports car, the engine secures the diesel crown for DaimlerChrysler by developing 315bhp and 538lb-ft of torque.

Mercedes Passenger Car unit chief executive officer Eckhard Cordes said: ‘Our 400 CDI bi-turbo turns the Vision SL into the most powerful diesel-engined passenger car in the world and a sports car without equal.

‘Equipped with the 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission which is now capable of handling 538lb-ft of torque, this SL takes over at the pinnacle of the passenger car diesel segment.’

The firm also hosted the world debut of its B-class model (pictured), previewed on Fleet NewsNet last month, and the new ML-class.

There were also nine new six-cylinder models for the C-class, E-class and SLK-class, along with the innovative sports tourer R-class concept.

Bargain basement Aston Martin

ASTON Martin launched the production version of its new V8 Vantage at the show.

The smallest, cheapest Aston in the range will go head to head with the likes of the Porsche 911 and BMW 6-series for sales among executives when it goes on sale in late summer. It uses a bespoke 4.3 litre 380bhp V8 engine. Prices are yet to be announced.

Quattro with family values

SUPERCAR performance from a four-door family car is on offer from Audi with the unveiling of its new 412bhp RS4 quattro saloon. Its launch marks the 25th anniversary of the first launch of quattro.

The stunning model will be available for delivery to fleet drivers in the autumn, offering a 4.2-litre V8 with direct petrol injection technology, 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and a governed 155mph top speed. The engine also churns out 317lb-ft of torque from 2,250rpm.

The model is the first time the RS brand has been used on the A4 and comes with striking exterior and interior styling, with 19-inch alloy wheels, 18-inch disc brakes and an engine starter button.

The model also hosts another first, as the V8 engine is the latest model to gain FSI direct petrol injection technology. An estate version will be available.

Cadillac means business

THE first Cadillac with diesel power is being lined up to drive into the heartland of Britain’s prestige business car market.

Principal rivals targeted using the BLS (pictured), the mid-size luxury saloon to be launched in 12 months’ time, will be the Audi A4, BMW’s 3-series and the Jaguar X-type, it was revealed.

A spokesman said: ‘The numbers we import will be small to start with because we need time to build our dealer network, but we intend to make an impact in the business car sector. The BLS is good to look at and should cause quite a stir.’

The fourth car to be based on the General Motors Epsilon platform, the Vectra-sized concept is expected to be cleared for production in September. Built at the Saab factory in Trollhattan, Sweden, it will join Cadillac’s first right-hand drive car, the CTS, which goes on sale at dealerships in London, Birmingham and Manchester in May.

GM Europe president Carl-Peter Forster said: ‘This is a model developed specifically to take on the leaders in Europe’s highly-competitive luxury sedan segment.’

Jags go back to the future

JAGUAR focused on its sporting history as the advanced lightweight coupe (pictured) made its European debut and shared the stage with the original E-type unveiled at the show in 1961.

The coupe give a clear indication of the future shape of the XK, while the current model was on show in its latest variant, a special edition with a 4.2-litre engine and offered in either coupe or convertible format. The supercharged model can reach 60mph in 5.2 seconds.

Jaguar managing director Bibiana Boerio said: ‘The XK has its own unique attraction. We have progressively updated the technologies and specifications that makes it all the more desirable.’

Spotlight on Sport

LAND Rover’s all-new Range Rover Sport had pride of place on the Land Rover stand, shown with a 2.7-litre TDV6 engine.

Earlier this year, the firm confirmed pricing for the model, which sits right in the middle of SUV heartland, with prices starting more than £10,000 below the full-size Range Rover.

The 2.7-litre TDV6 S starts at £34,995 on-the-road. Petrol engines start at £44,995 OTR for the 4.4 V8 SE.

Estate is unveiled

THE wraps officially came off the estate version of the Saab 9-3 at the show.

Called the 9-3 SportWagon in the UK and the SportCombi in Europe, it will come with a full seven engine line-up and open up a major fleet sales segment to the firm.

Also on the Saab stand was a new 2.8-litre V6 turbocharged engine offering 250bhp which was showcased in an Aero version of the estate.

Join the queue as Lexus goes diesel

LEXUS insists it was right to make fleet customers wait for a diesel engine until it was certain the unit could reflect the quality of its products.

When the new IS model is launched towards the end of this year, it will be offered with the first ever diesel engine in a Lexus and the firm says it will have been worth the wait.

User-choosers are expected to be at the front of the queue when it comes to taking the diesel option.

However, at first, IS will launch with a V6 2.5-litre direct injection petrol engine, offering 201bhp at 6,400rpm and 184 lb-ft of torque at 3,800rpm, which takes the car to 62mph in 8.4 seconds and on to 137mph.

Within a couple of months, the range will expand with the launch of a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine offering 175bhp and 295lb-ft of torque between 2,000 and 2,400rpm.

Performance and emission figures are not available for the common-rail diesel, but Lexus promises customers the delay will have been worth the wait.

All models will receive 10 airbags as standard including a first in segment double knee airbag.

A radar-controlled pre-crash safety system, adaptive cruise control and adaptive front lighting system will be available on certain models.

A Lexus spokesman said: ‘We have struggled because there has not been a diesel, although half the market is still petrol. Our volumes are still quite small, so we could still grow volume without a diesel. But we have a job to be done to ensure we are considered by fleets.

‘We are going somewhere we have never been before into new market segments, so we need to make sure we end up on drivers wish lists.’

Even without diesel, the firm sold 4,463 IS models last year out of total sales of 10,047.

The diesel will be a vital part of the firm’s plan to reach 20,000 sales by 2010, when 50% of its volume is expected to be IS.

Hybrid GS is in Lexus pipeline

THE new Lexus GS revealed at the show could be offered with a hybrid version within the next year, the firm has revealed.

When it launches in April, the new GS will be offered with 4.3-litre V8 and 3.0-litre V6 petrol engines, but no diesel.

However, there are plans for a hybrid petrol-electric version which will offer improved fuel economy and better performance. The firm revealed at the show that it plans to put a hybrid model as the top sports variant at the head of each of its ranges.

Its commitment to hybrid technology has been reinforced by the decision to launch the RX400h, a hybrid SUV, which can hit 62mph in 7.6 seconds, yet achieves 35mpg and produces 192g/km of CO2.

A spokesman said: ‘The RX400h goes on sale in June. The hybrid models will be at the head of the range because they can offer the maximum power output.’

New MX-5 aims to max sales

MAZDA’S new MX-5 took centre stage on the manufacturer’s stand at the show. Due for a November launch, pricing has yet to be announced for the new model but expect to pay at least a £1,000 premium over the outgoing model, which starts at £15,000.

Two new petrol engines, a 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre, will power the car, which is wider and longer than the current model.

UK marketing director Jeremy Thomson said: ‘The MX-5 will sell about 7,000 units a year, up from the 6,000 the current model sold in a significant year. Most sales will be retail but an increasing number of fleets are looking to widen their choice lists.’

Joining the roadster on the Mazda stand was the flagship model of the Mazda6 range, the MPS6. Described as a high-performance saloon, the 150mph car is powered by a new direct-injection turbocharged 2.3-litre petrol engine producing 255bhp at 6,000rpm.

The mildly facelifted Mazda6 also went on show. Diesel engines will be Euro IV when it goes on sale in July, while sound insulation has been upgraded.

Commenting on the company’s fleet performance, Thomson said: ‘Fleet sales account for about 35% of Mazda’s total UK sales and we don’t expect that to alter significantly this year.

‘Total sales reached about 50,000 in 2004 and we only expect them to increase slightly this year after three years of major growth with a number of new model launches.’ In September, the manufacturer will also launch its Mazda5 people carrier.

Pair of debutantes

FIAT’S new Croma made its world debut on the manufacturer’s stand at the show. The car gets three turbodiesels, 120bhp or 150bhp 1.9-litre Multijet units and a brand new 200bhp 2.4-litre Multijet. It is also available with two petrol engines, a 136bhp 1.8-litre and a 147bhp 2.2-litre unit.

A spokesman said: ‘The Croma has some very strong and a good range of petrol and diesel engines. We’ve yet to make a decision in the UK whether we get the car next year or earlier. Pricing will be announced nearer to its launch date.’

A new Stilo also went on display with a new facia and trim. The show vehicles featured two engines, a 115bhp 1.9 JTD and 140bhp 1.9 Multijet.

The company also used the event to display two Panda 4x4 show cars, one featuring a ‘Panda Swiss’ livery.

Alfa Romeo’s stand featured two world premieres, the 159 saloon and Brera coupe (pictured), both of which are destined for the UK next year.

Two 159s were on the stand, the first equipped with a 3.2-litre JTS engine producing 260bhp and the other with a 200bhp 2.4-litre engine.

The Brera featured a 3.2-litre V6 24-valve engine that also produces 260bhp. Pricing for these models will also be announced closer to launch.

High-flying Bentley

A GROWING number of business buyers at the top end of the market could turn to the Bentley brand following the launch of the Flying Spur (pictured below).

The super-luxury four-door saloon, priced at about £115,000 and powered by a V12 6.0-litre engine offering 552bhp, goes on sale in April and will significantly extend the reach of the brand.

Using all-wheel drive, it can hit 52mph in 5.2 seconds and go on to a top speed of 195mph.

Already the brand has reached thousands of new buyers with the launch of the Continental GT and the Silver Spur gives it access to a potential annual worldwide market in the segment of up to 10,000 units, with the UK accounting for 25%.

Geoff Dowding, managing director – European operations at Bentley, said business buyers would still benefit from Bentley’s focus on individual service. He said: ‘We treat all our customers on an individual basis. Clearly, we expect to see more sales to businesses as it is now available to a wider market, but business people already buy our current cars.’

‘They include chief executives, heads of companies and so on, but we do not treat sales as corporate sales. We are still selling to individuals and we provide them with a very high level of personal customer service.

‘The only market we do see as an potential opportunity is the specialist chauffeur market, but that is a very small specialist market.’

However, growth aspirations in terms of sales are limited, with the firm expecting total sales of 1,900 for all its models in the UK this year, equal to 2004.

Dowding added: ‘We do not discount. Residual value management is absolutely vital to us and it is the most important thing that we do. Managing supply and demand is very important as well as used car management through the dealership network.’

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