Currently reading: Paris motor show 2012: show report
Despite the troubles facing the European car industry, the 2012 Paris motor show exhibited an impressive array of machinery including some of the year's most important debuts

To the casual onlooker, the 2012 Paris Mondial de l'Automobile seemed what most motor shows are meant to be: a happy celebration of the launch of an impressive collection of new cars. Certainly the mix of new machinery was rich and varied, and even this year's crop of concepts seemed pleasantly realistic and on the pace. For your first few minutes, you might even have missed the fact that Europe's mainstream car industry is in deep trouble.

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The cracks were soon visible, however, first in the relative simplicity (read cheapness) of stand designs - Ford, for instance, was much smaller, and struggled to look like more than a car park - and then in the voices and expressions of the many top managers who made presentations. These people are taught to behave like poker players, but things are so bad and manufacturing capacity is currently racing so far ahead of demand, that the size of the problem could not be disguised or glossed over. Even before lunch, car bosses had become heartily sick of the which-plant-will-close question.

Paris motor show gallery part two

Yet all the new product was terrific. The mainstreamers are being attacked from the cheaper end of the market by aggressive and well-financed Koreans, and from above by highly successful premium manufacturers like BMW and Audi. They have no alternative but to make convincing new products - and they did.

Renault had the new Clio, supported by a racy 200hp Renaultsport vision and the showroom-ready Zoe electric car, the model they believe will "humanise" electric car sales. Ford had a whole plethora of machinery: revised Fiestas, the new Mondeo, a roomier Kuga, the baby SUV EcoSport and even a Berlingo-style civilised van called Tourneo Connect. Peugeot made a further fuss of its recently-launched 208 by showing both the new GTi and a "premium luxury" version called XY. Having delayed its new contender in the 208-Clio-Fiesta arena, the Punto, Fiat looked rather bereft, though its cute and ultra-versatile Panda 4x4 provided a minor hit.

Of course, there was the New Golf, which as usual had that confident, crafted-from-solid look that tells you its backers are very well financed (albeit by the sales of premium market Audis). The Golf has made an art form out of delivering exactly what buyers expect, even before they see it, and nobody doubted that with this latest edition the success would continue.

The premium makers, sustained by strong international sales and reasonable demand at home, were making hay. Chief among them was JLR, which showed the magnificent new Range Rover that seems to have been coming for years, and the fabulous Jaguar F-Type Jaguar. Both had tumultuous debuts, and were received with the all-important international critical acclaim. It must have occurred to Jaguar men that there would have been much to lose, had they botched the arrival of the true successor to a car so large in history as the E-type, but (barring the malfunction of one headlight) they didn't.

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If there was one Jaguar jarring note, it was over pricing. Given the relative difficulty (versus product excellence) of car makers in lower sectors, it hardly seemed moral that a sports car billed for years as a Porsche Boxster fighter should have a top price - before bespoke options - of £80,000. Several industry-watchers couldn't help wondering whether JLR's practice of charging more than expected for its products, though it works at present, will one day bite the thriving UK concern on the backside.

There was, of course, wall-to-wall talk about market prospects in Europe, and the main conclusion seemed to be that premium cars would keep doing all right, but there would be years of struggle - and potentially big reorganisations - for the mainstreamers. VW's top men, sounding unnecessarily smug, loudly predicted that some of their opponents would fail, something Fiat's Sergio Marchionne sternly rebutted. But it seems that for now, the best Europe's top executives can do is to chase non-European export sales even harder, and do an even better job of "smiling through".

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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5wheels 1 October 2012

Lexus for me

I have looked through all the new metal and there are lots of delightful as well as the poor to look at. But for me the Lexus has stolen my heart. Even that colour is amazing, although I do believe it will be a model which is very colour concious. Silver - beige - red and BRG would be the best ones - but the whole thing just grabs my attention and my desire and it is an awful long time since a set of wheel did that - especially one which is still on the right side of an annual pay packet!

SirSidneyRuffdiamond 29 September 2012


'VW's top men, sounding unnecessarily smug, loudly predicted that some of their opponents would fail...'

It sticks in one's craw (unless one is German perhaps) to read this, though it is hardly unexpected. This is partly because the German people are very down to earth and 'efficient'. They have proven their ability to do all sorts of things ultra-efficiently down the decades have they not? Some of those things nobody else would have dreamed of either. The rest of Europe should eat humble pie and learn from their approach in business. Copy them, in other words. At least where there is no moral hazard, that is...

The other reason is that many Germans continue to enjoy exhibiting that most maloderous of national characteristics, shadenfreude, taking pleasure in another's suffering. They really do love to gloat and rub peoples' noses in it, all the more so when they face difficulties, and all this after the Allies helped them rebuild their shattered nation after the Nazis were given the kicking they deserved. Very nice... not!

It's not just a myth then, Germans (though I'm generalising of course) really are arrogant and conceited. It's very ugly. I watch a lot of WW2-related programmes on the Yesterday channel and, oh my goodness, it is a rock-solid part of the German psyche, in the same way that their never-ending desire for expansion and domination over others is too. I'm not saying there are not nice Germans, or more humble ones, far from it, but that it is a very common thing, and it smells like the proverbial. Most unpleasant.

Friends of mine drove across Europe for a break in the Czech mountains recently which they thoroughly enjoyed, and passed through Frankfurt where they stopped overnight. Suffice to say that they hated it there, finding the people particularly rude, discourteous and wholly unwelcoming. Enough said. Let's hope it's not all happening again then, eh? German domination continues to grow over Europe through the EU by squeezing the life out of the poor fools who signed up to be pawns in their grand plan. If they are to underwrite the struggling members of the wreched Euro the Germans demand control of their banks first. They have sought nothing less than all this in over a century since German unification, so expect more of it.

It may not be politically correct to say such things but b****cks to all that. If something needs to be said then it should be said, and if the miscreants don't like it then that is their look out. It's high time a lot more people started wising up fast!

So anyway, VW/Audi are confident of their prospects then are they? Certainly sounds like it. Personally, these days, I'd prefer a Skoda myself. A Jaguar actually. Must buy a lottery ticket.

AlexF512 30 September 2012

WTF are you going on about

WTF are you going on about you pompous idiot. VW is executing a business masterplan while putting out the some of the best products the industry has ever seen. Compared to the rubbish the likes of Peugeot and Fiat are building (the latter with Ferrari/Maser excepted) VW have every right to  be proud of what they've done. It shows that people want good products - and those products now include Skoda, FYI. 

michael knight 30 September 2012

AlexF512 wrote: WTF are you

AlexF512 wrote:

WTF are you going on about you pompous idiot. VW is executing a business masterplan while putting out the some of the best products the industry has ever seen. Compared to the rubbish the likes of Peugeot and Fiat are building (the latter with Ferrari/Maser excepted) VW have every right to  be proud of what they've done. It shows that people want good products - and those products now include Skoda, FYI. 

bit harsh...and I don't agree, though obviously judging by the sales figures, many would. I'd much rather a 508 than a Passat, a 500 than an UP. And one day when your only choice of car is a product from the VAG group...maybe you'll regret that.

AlexF512 1 October 2012

Yes, people are voting with

Yes, people are voting with their wallets - it's been years since Peugeot genuinely made a car that can stick it with the competition. The 508 may gain the odd fan but, then, so did a few Saabs... Fiat have some gems in the range - I'd also choose a 500 over an Up. But not over a Polo, which i believe is more class-comparitive. The Fiat still has far too many quirks for me every day and in Australia they are stupidly expensive too.

In all industries, today's market necessitates high quality products with an extremely well-managed supply chain (low channel inventory and great economies of scale). VW is proving unbeatable in those respects. It's group range is near faultless. and even the blandest models, the Passats and Jettas, still sell well. 

Fiat is hopefully going nowhere but may have to shed a few lines (e.g. the Punto - rubbish car!).

BMW, Mercedes etc look in OK-good shape too.

Companies like Peugeot, Renault, Holden here, even Opel etc who have a mostly tepid or bland, outmoded range have to do something radical to survive. Governments no longer have the money, desire or political freedom to bail them out, nor should they have to.




Randy Cam 27 September 2012


Not sure about the clio in Tweety Pie (i thought i saw a puddy cat) yellow.

Peter Cavellini 28 September 2012

Naaaww!, more like Spongebob

Naaaww!, more like Spongebob Squarepants!

Orangewheels 28 September 2012

Peter Cavellini

Peter Cavellini wrote:

Naaaww!, more like Spongebob Squarepants!

No, Spongebob's got a much better looking face.