March 8, 2012
A Geneva Show Walk Around
Francois Bancon, deputy division general manager for product strategy and planning, took the Global Media Center for a walk around the stands at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. Highlights included the Ford B-Max, Peugeot 208, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Fiat 500L, and the Audi A3.
This is Ford B-Max, what we call a BMPV segment in Europe. It used to be very popular, less so now. And what is impressive here is when you open the door. This is a normal door. Here you have a sliding door. And you have this huge impression of space and roominess because there is no pillar – what we call B-pillar in our genre. It’s a very interesting innovation. I don’t exactly know how they’re going to price this, but it’s a very convincing new positioning in a category, fighting with a lot of people, including our friends in Renault.
The only one who tried [this type of door] years ago was Peugeot, with a sliding door and two-door car. It’s a very delicate technology; it’s an expensive technology. And, on top of this, to be pillar-less is really a challenge for the structure of the car, safety regulations, etc. It’s a unique offer. I’m not sure anyone is going to follow this.
Peugeot 208 is a very difficult challenge for Peugeot, because it is one of the most important cars in the Peugeot line-up. They used to be, and they still are, No. 1 in the category, almost playing with Renault and the Clio. This is a very new one, shorter, going back to what the B-segment hatchback should be: Less than 4 meters.
Very competitive design, aggressive, sporty, a huge presence on the road – a kind of high-quality interior. They’re going to make it. It’s a very good car. And this relates to how we’re going to make our next Micra. That gives us some very good direction about what we should do to be competitive in the most difficult segment in Europe, which is the B-hatchback.
If you remember, the A-Class used to be a kind of compact MPV minivan. And here this is the new generation – a complete repositioning of the car. More traditional, more sporty, more Mercedes, I should say. Very well done. A kind of A3 Audi fighter in this category. What is interesting here is that we’re going to share this platform with our Infiniti, so that gives you some cue what is possible to do in terms of proportion, powertrain, and expression of the model.
Here’s the 500L. A little bit of history: the Fiat 500, the original one, is a kind of fashionable object, a kind of mini-aspire car. You don’t buy this as a vehicle, you buy this as an object to define yourself as being in the trend. Some inspiration – not to say they copied Mini – but somehow inspired by the Mini line up. They did this, which is a kind of proxy minivan, but very well done in terms of fashion.
It’s good-looking and a good presence on the street. It might work. It’s a good initiative. This is an expensive car. The Fiat 500 is a very expensive premium A-segment car in Europe. They’re going to try to do the same in the B-segment with this.
The Audi A3 used to be a legend in Europe, almost the only premium C-segment car in Europe, followed by BMW and now by Mercedes A-class, probably. That was a hatchback, very compact, very well done, high quality.
They made it bigger. The main weakness of the previous one was that the roominess was very poor. They fixed it. The car is a bit bigger, probably targeting the U.S. The quality interior is exceptional – it looks like they spent a lot on this – the Audi DNA. That’s it. A good looking car, not a revolution. Very predictable, but very well done.