By Brendan Moore
After the press days last week in Paris at the 2008 Paris Auto Show, I had a lot of information from the various manufacturers to go through, as well as the photos and notes I myself took during the show. There are a couple of cars I want to focus on in separate articles shortly, but here are some general observations about the show.
Besides the ever-present diesels, there are electric cars and electric-gas hybrid vehicles everywhere at the show this year. There are also a lot of gasoline-powered, tiny urban cars. Many of the cars in all three of these non-diesel categories are from small specialty car manufacturers, who, sensing a market vacuum, have rushed in with a product to fill that vacuum. A fair amount of the very small cars from specialty carmakers were very challenged in the looks department.
The small cars as a group were drawing large crowds of journalists. The new Ford Ka, the electric Smart car, the Toyota iQ, the Chevrolet Volt, the Mitsubishi MiEV, the Nissan Nuvu, and, of course, the new Honda Insight, had standing room only around the cars during press days. Smaller manufacturers’ efforts were drawing well, too, with the Pininfarina-Bolloré joint electric car project due in 2009 completely mobbed by journalists, although the mob effect was probably amplified considerably by the fact that they were in a very small room. And the Venturi Eclectic was getting a lot of foot traffic when I visited there.
There were also a great many suppliers at the 2008 Paris Auto Show hawking various types of alternative energy or alternative fuel products. As an example, I spent some time with a French vendor there who was selling ethanol conversion kits for the European market. He had a 2007 Ford Mustang on his stand that had undergone such a conversion. When I told him that General Motors produced over six million OEM vehicles able to run on ethanol or gasoline, this was news to him. In fact, it is a safe statement to say that he was stunned at the production numbers. When I then added that very few of the vehicles ever got to run on ethanol because there were no fueling stations that offered ethanol in most parts of the U.S., he was puzzled. I didn’t have the time or the French language skills to explain the inanity of CAFE regulations to him, so I gave him my best Gallic shrug when he asked why so many cars would be built to use fuel that you couldn’t buy. Conversely, I was surprised at how many ethanol stations were in France – the vendor had a map of France (about the size of the state of Pennsylvania) with the various retail locations selling ethanol shown on the map, and there were a fair amount of locations. Maybe GM should sell some of those flex-fuel vehicles in Europe. Continue Reading →