The 2017 auto show season officially gets underway this week with a media preview of the Paris Motor Show, one of the industry’s biggest and most widely watched events.
The show will spotlight a number of major debuts from manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Land Rover and France’s own Peugeot and Citroen. There also be plenty of green news, General Motors’ German-based Opel unveiling the long-range Ampera-e battery car and arch-rival Volkswagen expected to reveal its own, long-range EV.
But this year’s Paris Motor Show also will be significant for what – and who – is not on hand. A variety of manufacturers and senior industry executives have decided to skip the events in the City of Lights, a move that reflects the growing industry concern about the high cost of major auto shows.
Among those who have decided not to launch new products in Paris – indeed, not even put older models on display – are Ford, Lamborghini, Mazda, Rolls-Royce and Volvo. And, in a last-minute move, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne announced he was calling off his visit to the show and a series of media interviews and roundtables.
“We have to be rethinking where we spend our dollars,” said an official with a major Japanese automaker who was not authorized to go on the record discussing that company’s marketing efforts. A 15-mnute product debut at show like Paris can cost several million dollars, he noted, adding that there are a lot of alternative ways to get “more bang for the buck.”
That mindset is beginning to spread throughout the industry, major automakers pulling out of a number of big shows in places like Frankfurt, Los Angeles and Detroit. The Motor City show saw several brands, including Buick, stage events outside the Cobo Hall convention center last year. That move allowed them to draw from the thousands of media gathered in Detroit without paying the high cost of an actual auto show preview.
That said, most automakers still see events like the Detroit and Paris shows as important and effective ways to expose new products to a mass audience, both media and the public. Thousands of journalists will be on hand for this year’s preview in France and perhaps 1 million potential buyers will surge to the Porte de Versailles convention center once the doors open to the public.
Among the most important debuts will be the Opel Ampera-e, a 250-mile battery-electric vehicle sharing its underlying components with the Chevrolet Bolt EV set to go on sale in the United States in the coming weeks. The Bolt and Ampera-e will mark the first serious challenge to upstart electric automaker Tesla.
But GM won’t be alone. Hammered by its diesel emissions cheating scandal, Volkswagen is making a major shift, focusing more and more on electric propulsion. The German maker has promised to have 30 different battery-based options in production by 2025, and that campaign will get underway with the expected Paris unveiling of a Golf-sized EV that, the maker has hinted, could deliver range of anywhere from 250 to 380 miles.
(For more on VW’s EV debut, Click Here.)
The underlying architecture for that model will be shared across the German maker’s vast brand line-up, and Paris will bring the debut of several other electrified offerings from the Volkswagen Group. That includes a new plug-in hybrid version of the Porsche Panamera sedan. In hybrid mode, it will hit 60 mph in a mere 4.4 seconds and top out at 172 mph. It will hit a maximum 86 mph in battery-only mode, and will yield up to 31 miles per charge.
A number of other manufacturers will be pushing into the alternative propulsion space, including Smart — which will reveal the Fortwo Electric Drive — and local French maker Citroen with its Cxperience concept.
(Click Here for more on the Smart ED.)
The drive for battery power is being hastened by shifting European rules and regulations. Paris, for example, wants to ban the sale of new diesels in the coming years. And a number of city centers are exploring the idea of barring all vehicles other than those powered by batteries or other zero-emissions systems, such as hydrogen fuel-cells.
That said, Paris will have plenty to offer for the less green-minded. Among the most important debuts will be:
- Audi Q5. A complete redesign of the automaker’s midsize SUV. A battery-based variation is also under development;
- BMW X2. A concept version of the German performance brand’s compact crossover;
- Ferrari CTC4 Lusso. The first four-seater from the Italian supercar maker using a Turbo V-8;
- Honda Civic. The production hatchback version will make its debut, alongside a concept version of the high-performance Civic Type-R;
Hyundai i30. A midsize sedan competing with such dominant players as the Ford Focus;
- Infiniti will preview a variety of new and updated models, including the QX50, Q70 and Q80;
- Land Rover Discovery. The second of three planned models to share the “Disco” badge;
- Lexus UX. A new mini-SUV aiming at such competitors as the Audi Q2 and BMW X2;
- Mercedes-Benz will bring to Paris two new versions of its GT sports car;
- Nissan Micra. The Japanese maker’s super-mini is targeting European urban dwellers
- Porsche will also introduce a shooting brake, or wagon, version of the Panamera.
We’ll also be seeing some intriguing new technology that could help make the conventional, internal combustion engine more competitive against battery and other green alternatives. That includes the new Infiniti variable compression engine. The turbo 2.0-liter package will be able to adjust compression from 8:1 to as much as 14:1 to deliver the best mix of performance, emissions and fuel efficiency for any given moment.
So, while some manufacturers may be pulling back, Paris is demonstrating that the auto show is far from a relic of the past.
(Click Here for more on the breakthrough Infiniti engine.)