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Paris Motor Show: Volkswagen, Mercedes, Toyota and MINI

THE world’s car manufacturers were out in force at the Paris Motor Show with a host of launches. In the third instalment we visit the Volkswagen, Mercedes, Toyota and MINI stands.

Volkswagen: Family planning

THE Touran (pictured) and Touareg have become the latest two Volkswagen models to get the firm’s new corporate face, leaving only some Golf models and the Phaeton without the chrome grille and shapelier lights.

The firm hopes that the changes to the Touran in particular will address criticisms that the mini-MPV looks too van-like, although sales match the firm’s original targets when it was launched in 2003 of around 11,000 units annually, suggesting buyers are less fussy.

The Touran will also get uprated interior trim and the option of ParkAssist which uses sensors and the power steering to park the car automatically. Prices have not yet been set for the option.

Sales will start early next year while the new-look Touareg is scheduled to be launched in January 2007.

The German firm also showed off its Iroc coupe concept, which is likely to evolve into a new Scirocco in 2008.

Although some of its other high-profile niche concepts such as the Microbus and Roadster were canned despite rave reviews, Volkswagen executives admit the Iroc is likely to go into production – the firm recognises it misread the burgeoning market for coupes when it failed to replace the Corrado in the late 1990s.

Mercedes: power to the people

POWER was the central theme of Paris for Mercedes-Benz: 525bhp 63 AMG versions of the S-class and new CL coupe as well as a special 650bhp 722 Edition of the SLR McLaren.

As well as the AMG version, the entire CL-class line-up got an airing for the first time. The luxury coupe, based on the S-class platform, features all of the industry-first technology of its saloon cousin, with a choice of 388bhp 5.5-litre V8 or 517bhp 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engines.

Toyota: Auris hints at new Corolla

TOYOTA is planning to launch a fresh drive for fleet business when it replaces the Corolla model next February.

Auris (pictured) is the name chosen to take over from the huge-selling Corolla in February, revealed Toyota Motor Europe executive vice-president Thierry Dombreval.

Speaking as the five-door hatchback was unveiled at Paris, Dombreval claimed the next model from the Japanese firm’s factory at Burnaston, near Derby, would play a vital role in plans for expansion across key European markets.

He added: ‘We are on our way to our tenth consecutive record for registrations in Europe and we have set ourselves the new challenge of reaching annual sales of 1.2 million units by 2008.’

A Toyota GB spokesman told Fleet News: ‘Corolla was a massive seller around the globe, but it never lived up to our hopes in the UK with fleet buyers, who took only 20% of the 18,000 units we sold each year. This new car will come with exceptionally efficient petrol and diesel engines which should make for a better proposition in the sector.

‘Interest is increasing in lower-medium sector vehicles and we feel the Auris will set the standard with a roomy interior that is also innovative.

‘Ultimately, our aim is for the new model to match the Avensis, of which fleet accounts for 60% of sales.’

MINI: increased sales to company car drivers

BMW will take a cautious approach to the way it increases the number of MINIs being supplied to the corporate sector.

The company is keen to expand in the fleet market, but growth will not be achieved at the expense of residual values, said Dr Kay Seglar, head of sales and marketing at MINI.

Launched at Paris, the next-generation MINI is set to take annual output from the Oxford factory to 240,000 cars by 2008 – 60,000 more than the volume expected for this year.

Seglar added: ‘Naturally, our aim is seek an improvement on our current corporate split of 13%. We’d like the figure to rise in line with the higher volume, but we are proud to be building Britain’s least depreciating car and are keen to retain the title.’

Earlier this year, industry guides rated the MINI One as retaining 66% of its original price after three years and 36,000 miles – a better performance than some Porsche models.

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