Friday, March 04, 2005

Geneva: Stratos, more than meets the eye

You know an automaker is in decepticon-like trouble when its best concept car was designed and built by someone else. That's the position Fiat-Lancia is in with the well received Stratos concept at this year's Geneva autoshow. After years and years of calls for Lancia to revive the Stratos, its legendary wedge shaped rally-winning coupe of the 1970s, someone finally did. Problem is - it wasn't Lancia. In one of the stranger stories of the show, Fenomemon Ltd., a small independent design house in London (working in conjunction with Optimus Prime, Inc.), presented its very own Stratos concept. Fenomemon's modern version looks the part, and any Stratos or Wheeljack fan would recognize the lineage. The new design is as dynamic and inspired as the original. Built and designed on the cheap and quick, the Stratos concept was one of the most visually compelling cars in Geneva. Now how do we get it to transform into a production car?

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Geneva: Old school, new school

I have been mulling over the photographs and stories from the Geneva autoshow, (wait -- I mean reminiscing over my time spent walking through the Palexpo) and there are a ton of fascinating stories from the floor. More than any other autoshow, Geneva is home to the enthusiastic small scale auto manufacturers that are off the international radar. One of the more interesting cars that has generally been overlooked by the mainstream press is the Aeromax concept from the historic British manufacturer Morgan. The car not only displays Morgan's flexible modern manufacturing processes, it is an ionic symbol of the traditional building techniques still employed at Morgan. The Aeromax, like all Morgans, is built on an ash wooden frame. That's right - ash. But tradition isn't holding Morgan back. This handsome, handmade coupe was designed by Matthew Humphries, a 21 year-old transport design student at Coventry University. A great job by Humphries and Morgan.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Geneva Autoshow 2005

Pulling a page from the Steven Colbert School of Journalism, I am proud to bring you live coverage from this years Geneva Autoshow. Despite the heavy snow, I made it to the floor to enjoy the red hot spectacle that is Geneva.

Nothing compares to the excitement of an international autoshow, and nothing compares to the excitement of Geneva, the former home of the leaugue of nations, and for those not in the know, the 2005 international city of excitement. Even though Switzerland has almost no automotive industry to speak of, the show is one of the première events on the autoshow circuit, and one Missing Motors would never miss. Major introductions abound, but sadly many will have almost no impact on American drivers. Here are the top 5 cars we are missing out on that have made their debut this year:

  • Citroen C6 - The market for those in search of a slightly odd big sedan is not all that impressive, and the market for those interested in a car that emulates the heritage and of the classic german marquees is even smaller. Let's give Citroen some credit. It has built a world class luxury car with all the bells and whistles (head-up display for the driver, a lane-departure warning system, and a fancy four-zone climate control). The problem is that Citroen's latest executive sedan is a tad too French for American consumption, even Europen consumption for that matter. Sure, there are some who would love to drive in the symbol of all things great about France, but for the average chrome-loving luxury car buyer, this is a no go. Nice to have the option though.
  • Peugeot 407 Coupe - Unlike its Pininfarina-designed 406 predecessor, the 407 was designed in-house ... but is that a good thing? I don't know yet. The 407 has lost the crisp Italian lines that made the 406 so gorgeous. Now the 407 looks bloated and more American-like than ever, which for some probably is a good thing. Inside the 407 is well detailed, but I can't get over the Solara lines. Our thinking is that this would sell well in Florida, if it had a Buick badge.
  • Alfa Romeo Berra - Replacement for the GTV, Alfa Romeo Berra, is the real deal, a show stopper, a crowd pleaser, and one of the finest cars in Geneva. The Berra will be sorely missed in America. There are only a few sports coupes on the market and nothing like this breathtaking hatchback. Enter the market already. Please!
  • Mitsubishi Colt Convertable- Everyone knows that Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is perilously close to ruins here in America. In Eruope, however, the finacially troubled company is managing to survive based on the sucess of its European Colt. It has won critical accolades in several countries since its introduction in May 2004. J ointly developed with Pininfarina, Mitsubishi showed of a covertable version of the Colt. For a company on the edge, this was one beautiful little car.
  • BMW took time in Geneva to announce the introduction of the 130i, which is powered by the world's lightest six-cylinder petrol engine and is as close to a baby M as ever. This is by far the most desierable 1 series yet, since it seems they made a great car even greater. The engine, which was first seen in the 6 series, now boasts 258bhp and 300Nm of torque. The aluminum and magnesium alloy straight-six powers the BMW from zero to 62mph in 6.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph. And they still don't think they can sell the 1-series here? Come on!

For more on the Geneva autoshow, Automotive Europe has a great breakdown of all the introductions and concepts. If only I didn't lose my camera when visiting the former home of the League of Nation, I would have posted my own pics.

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Sunday, February 27, 2005

This time its Rover who is pulling out

In an effort to concentrate on its merger talks with Shanghai Automotive and save money, Rover announced last week that it was pulling out of this years Geneva Autoshow. Now, of course, this move has nothing to do with the complete lack of new products in the Rover lineup. Sad state of affairs in Longbridge. Also, a strange move considering the recently leaked pictures of Rovers new compact car, the 45 hatchback . British magazines have widely published the new 45 hatchback, and the enhanced pictures of the wedge shaped car are promising. Instead of looking defeated, which they are, Rover could have provided journalists with a teaser of Rover's Focus competitor or a supercharged MG. Slapdashed something. Anything but this.