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Frankfurt Motor Show: fleet takes centre stage at the German megashow

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    A host of new models which your staff will be driving in the near future made their world debuts at the show, including Jaguar’s striking XF and a trio of new Ford offerings.

    Ford

    Ford unveiled two new models at Frankfurt and dropped some heavy hints as to the look of a third model due to be launched next year.

    The Kuga SUV made its world debut at the show in road (and mud) going form.

    With four-wheel drive and chunky styling, the SUV will be going head-to-head with Vauxhall’s Antara and the Honda CR-V when deliveries begin next year. Power comes from the familiar 136bhp 2.0 TDCi turbodiesel engine.

    Also making its debut was the new Focus range, which now has revised front-end styling with the adoption of the family face debuted on the Mondeo.

    Among the features of the new Focus, due on sale in February, are a fresh look for the interior and a boost in quality, a six-speed semi-automatic gearbox, the Easy Fuel capless refuelling system and tyre pressure monitoring.

    There will also be an ECOnetic version which uses a diesel engine to deliver just 115g/km of CO2.

    This model will be a precursor to other low-CO2 models in the future, including the Fiesta and Mondeo ranges.

    Also on show was the Verve, a concept car with some strong clues as to how next year’s new Fiesta model will look.

    Volkswagen

    Volkswagen is all set to launch an all-new hatchback model costing around £5,000 and capable of returning more than 100mpg.

    Up!, a prototype of the German company’s 21st-century people’s car, took the Frankfurt Motor Show by storm and could be in the showrooms in 2010, according to chairman Dr Martin Winterkorn.

    “I have pushed hard for this product because I believe it embodies everything our brand represents – it is affordable mobility and full of technical innovation,” he said.

    The first Volkswagen since the Beetle to feature a rear-mounted engine, the three-door concept uses two or three-cylinder motors and has already returned more than 85mpg in trials.

    Further development will turn it into a runabout model capable of overtaking the 100mpg mark.

    Sized to compete with the PSA-Toyota small car range at 3.45mtrs long, a chic appearance also makes the Up! a strong potential rival to the new Fiat 500.

    Styled by group chief designer Walter de Silva, it has a glass tailgate with integrated lighting and an illuminated VW logo, uses air to adjust seating comfort and features touchscreen technology.

    BMW

    A combination of higher performance and improved operating economy is underpinning greater success for BMW in the corporate sector.

    Moves to fit more frugal power units across the firm’s core line-up of executive cars have already boosted the firm’s penetration of the UK fleet market.

    BMW GB corporate operations manager Chris Brownridge said: “Everybody likes the combination of reduced fuel costs, lower National Insurance contributions and a cut in benefit-in-kind taxation and the packaging is particularly attractive to user-choosers.

    “We expect to keep winning sales as the range expands – apart from the 123d Coupe, we expect the new 520d SE saloon to make considerable headway. There’s nothing to touch it.”

    The X6 concept, essentially a more coupé-like X5, included BMW’s hybrid technology – ActiveHybrid which improves the environmental offering from BMW even further.

    The hybrid combines two compact, high-performance electric motors. Expect a production version of the X6 next year.

    Vauxhall

    A dramatic turnaround in retail car sales has put Vauxhall in pole position to break the 30-year dominance of Ford in Britain, it was claimed at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

    Three consecutive months at the top of the charts places GM’s UK subsidiary “in the frame” for market leadership, believes company chairman Jonathan Browning.

    Booming showroom business is set to deliver a further 50,000 new car registrations this month, a performance that could extend Vauxhall’s chart success.

    “This success is not just flash-in-the-pan, and while I still don’t rate market leadership as a priority, I do want us to achieve more growth in the retail segment. What we’re talking about here is long term progress for the brand,” he said.

    As GM released its new Agila small car at the show, along with an electric station wagon concept hinting at the 2010 Zafira, Mr Browning said Vauxhall was now concentrating on more profitable marketing channels such as business- to-business.

    “It’s great to see a British-built car like the Astra at number one –we’re making good progress and I think we’re in the frame for market leadership,” he added.

    Peugeot

    Peugeot unveiled two new editions to its 308 family, showcasing the SW Prologue concept and a new diesel hybrid.

    The seven-seater Prologue estate builds on the familiar shape of the 308, featuring a new rear design that allows for an additional row of seats at the back. It is powered by a 2.0-litre HDi, 136bhp engine.

    The 308 hybrid, due for release in 2010, couples a 1.6-litre, 110bhp diesel engine with a 22bhp electric motor. On the combined cycle, Peugeot claims 83mpg.

    Mazda

    The new Mazda6 debuted at the show with a fresh 167bhp, 2.5-litre petrol engine which joins the current line up.

    Improvements have also been made to other engines and the manufacturer hopes the Mazda6 will become a benchmark in its class.

    A Mazda spokesman said: “Customers will be offered a choice of power trains as a new 168bhp, 2.5-litre petrol engine joins the line-up alongside the enhanced 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines and the 2.0-litre diesel.

    They are all carried over from the previous Mazda6.”

    Although the new model is larger than its predecessor, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions have been improved.

    On the combined cycle, the new models have fuel consumption improvements ranging from 3.4% to 11.7%.

    Additional changes to the Mazda6 include improvements to the independent suspension system that is set to enhance ride comfort and new electric power steering which should result in a 2% reduction in fuel consumption.

    Jaguar

    The sleek XF saloon was the undoubted star of the show, revealing a new look for the brand as it awaits news of potential buyers.

    The four-door saloon, which goes on sale next March, arrives as Jaguar is in the process of being sold from the Ford empire.

    Jaguar’s UK managing director Geoff Cousins said: “The XF is crucial to the company but it is giving us the confidence to say it is as good as any car in the sector. “With Jaguar there has always been an emotional pull to buyers, but with the XF we also have rational reasons to buy.”

    Mr Cousins is referring to strong residual values for the XF (51% after three years/36,000 miles) and its value, with all trim grades featuring satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and stitched leather interior.

    This will appeal to business buyers, he claims, adding that the strong RVs will remove the need to offer discounts.

    He added: “The XF will give us growth in the corporate sector, but we are not going to discount it. We have worked so hard to get strong residuals we are not going to let them slip away. We’ve also worked hard to ensure the XF has the lowest SMR costs in the sector.”

    Prices will start at £33,900 for the 2.7-litre twin-turbo diesel.

    Mercedes

    Mercedes-Benz unveiled its “Road to the Future” strategy which included a range of fuel-efficient and environmentally compatible concept cars and technology.

    The F700 concept with the Diesotto engine gave an insight into the possible future S-Class.

    The engine combines elements of petrol and diesel technologies with a turbo-charger that allows the 1.8-litre unit to produce 238bhp with maximum torque of 295lb-ft.

    When used with a 20bhp electric motor the Diesotto hybrid drive can produce 258bhp, combined economy of 53.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 127g/km.

    Dr Thomas Weber, member of the board of management at Mercedes-Benz, said: “In spite of its unequalled low fuel consumption figures, the performance of the F700 is on par with that of a luxury model. It accelerates from a standstill to 62mph in just 7.2 seconds.”

    The group also showcased the economical E300 Bluetec diesel which hits the European market in December. Meeting Euro V emission standards, the Bluetec is billed by Mercedes as the cleanest diesel in the world and according to the manufacturer has the potential to be even greener.

    Audi

    Audi celebrated a massive lift in fleet sales this year by announcing sector-leading residual values for the next-generation A4 model previewed at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

    Three-year/60,000-mile predictions of 54 to 56% represent a dramatic improvement on the 47 to 48% predictions for the current car, said Audi UK director Jeremy Hicks.

    “The top figure applies to our best-selling version, the 2.0-litre TDI, so we see that as a particularly good indicator. It shows the strength of the brand and reflects all the hard work that has been done to make sure we never have to depend on any particular part of the market,” he said.

    Head of fleet sales Iain Carmichael said year-to-date registrations of 38,500 reflected a 33.5% increase in fleet sales. “Against the 3.1% growth in the market, this is a very good performance.

    “Our 5.1% share is ahead of what we expected and we’re still confident of continued success because the A4 accounts for 40% of our fleet business.

    “Our run-out campaign has gone so well that all our stocks of the current car are sold. As the new car doesn’t arrive until February or March, all we can do is open the order bank.”

    Up to three-quarters of the 16,000 A4 models available in Britain next year are expected to go to corporate users.

    The car will be launched in SE form and prices have been fixed at £22,500 for the 1.8T FSI and £23,940 for the 2.0 TDI.

    Toyota

    Toyota exhibited its new iQ concept model, especially designed for urban motoring in a bid to rival the Smart car.

    The iQ (above) is specifically tailored for a city environment, with a 3+1 interior design seating three adults plus a child, or three adults and more luggage space.

    At just under three metres in length, the ultra-compact iQ is even smaller than Toyota’s current city car, the Aygo.

    The Yaris-like design also features a panoramic glass sunroof, though as of yet there are no engine specifications for the car.

    Honda

    A new Honda Accord arrives in the UK next year and the manufacturer dropped some heavy hints of its look with its Accord Tourer Concept.

    The concept features an aggressive-looking front-end treatment while at the back the current model’s focus on load space has been replaced by a more premium feel with less boot space. When it goes on sale next summer, the Accord will be one of the first cars with an entirely Euro V-compliant engine line-up thanks to the new i-DTEC diesel engine.

    This 2.2-litre unit cuts CO2 and NOx emission levels while also boosting power and torque over the existing i-CTDi engine.

    Production versions of the saloon and Tourer models will make their debut at the Geneva Motor Show next March.

    Harvey Hughes, manager – corporate operations at Honda UK, said: “This concept shows the design direction we are taking with the new Accord.

    “It is sleeker, sportier and will also be more engaging to drive.”

    Mr Hughes expects the new Accord, along with continued strong demand for the Civic and CR-V, to continue to drive Honda’s corporate sales up and expects fleet sales to account for more than their current level of 30% of total sales.

    Currently, the saloon accounts for 80% of Accord fleet sales in the UK, although Mr Hughes expects the new Tourer will increase its share of the model mix.

    Renault

    Hot on the heels of the launch of the new Laguna hatchback and Sport Tourer range, Renault took the wraps off a further addition to the family.

    The Laguna Coupe Concept is a thinly-disguised version of the Laguna Coupe which is due to arrive next year.

    Although the concept’s gullwing doors are unlikely to make it through to production, the look of the car most certainly will.

    Under the sleek bodywork is a version of the Laguna chassis which has been adapted to offer four-wheel steering, with the rear wheels following in the same direction as the fronts for higher-speed cornering and facing in the opposite way for slow-speed manouevring around town.

    When it goes on sale in the latter half of 2008 it will be offered with two V6 engines – a 3.5-litre petrol and a 3.0-litre dCi diesel, plus a more fleet-friendly 2.0-litre dCi.

    Elsewhere on the Renault stand, the French manufacturer revealed the production version of its Clio Sport Tourer (below) – an estate version of the existing Clio supermini.

    With a larger boot than the regular Clio, the Sport Tourer is aimed at attracting lifestyle buyers and also countering the threat from Peugeot’s 207SW and the Skoda Fabia estate.

    The Sport Tourer goes on sale in the early part of next year with a choice of four petrol and three diesel engines – all borrowed from the current Clio line-up.

    SEAT

    SEAT will soon be joining the drive into the burgeoning market for SUVs.

    Volkswagen’s Spanish subsidiary is planning a production version of the Tribu concept car launched at the show and it could be on sale in 18 months’ time.

    With dramatic styling lines said to signal the appearance of future SEAT designs, the four-wheel-drive three-door model is claimed to offer sporty driving characteristics despite having 20-inch wheels and a high ground clearance.

    SEAT also announced that a new, high-economy version of its Ibiza hatchback model will be available in UK showrooms in January.

    Costing around £10,500, the Ibiza Ecomotive will use running gear from the Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion to achieve 74mpg and emit 99g/km of CO2 for exemption from VED and the proposed changes to the London congestion charge.

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