Business Day update from motor show – 26 May 17:00

26 May 2004 #SMMT News

  • Modus leads Renault’s new model army
  • Next stop Beijing
  • Good cars are urban art, says Steve Coogan
  • Corrie stars past and present

Modus leads Renault’s new model army

Renault’s Modus, debuting at The Sunday Times Motor Show Live, forms the advance guard for a new generation of small cars from the brand.

Emphasising space and versatility the five-door Modus goes on sale this autumn priced at “a few hundred pounds above Clio,” according to company sources.

Renault UK’s managing director, Philippe Talou-Derible, said that while the Modus established another new niche for the company it would help sustain sale volume before a new Clio range is launched in the final quarter of next year.

The French brand’s small car portfolio will be strengthened by the long-awaited arrival of the next generation Twingo, previously unavailable in right hand drive form.

Aimed at rivals like Fiat’s Panda, Smart’s forfour and the MINI, the Twingo will be “stylish and chic” according to Renault’s UK managing director.

Talou-Derible admitted: “There will be some substitution between five-door Clio and Modus but Clio has essentially been a three-door car. That is a legacy of not being able to import Twingo.”

UK customers will have access to the Twingo because it will share a common platform with the next Clio and its Nissan Micra corporate cousin, therefore generating economies of scale.

Meanwhile Renault has chosen Britain as the venue for unveiling a significant concept car, a Laguna-sized coupe, codenamed Z16.

The wraps will come off the design exercise next week at the Louis Vuitton concourse d’elegance at Waddestone Manor.

Renault engineers overseen by the company’s senior vice president of corporate design, Birmingham-educated Patrick le Quement, are putting the finishing touches to the car at concept car specialist G Studios in Turin.

A spokesman for Renault said: “It will be of equal importance to our brand as the Initiale was in the late 1990s. All our concept cars have to work for a living, providing inspiration and elements which find their way into production designs.”

Initiale was influential in the styling of the current Laguna, Vel Satis and the discontinued Avantime.

Next stop Beijing

Beijing is the next motor show staging post for premium and luxury British carmakers, which next month will make their presence felt in the potentially vast Chinese market.

At the heart of the initiative is Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, with Aston Martin joining Land Rover and Jaguar at China’s premier exhibition.

Bentley, Rolls-Royce and MINI will also be present in a market which last year generated 100,000 luxury and premium car sales.

Aston Martin is displaying a DB9 and V12 Vanquish on its stand and the company’s general manager of sales operations, Ian Minards, described its involvement as “very much a fact-finding visit.”

He said: “China is a very complex market and the luxury sports car potential is unknown. We want to gauge the reaction from the public and prospective partners. As yet we don’t have brochures in Mandarin.”

Minards said Aston Martin had commissioned market research but it had produced: “as many questions as answers.”

The company is hosting a pre-show reception at the British embassy in Beijing as part of its “listening exercise.” Aston Martin has not set a timetable for establishing a sales and service network, nor established volume targets.

Dr Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin’s chairman, will be part of a high-profile PAG delegation, which includes Joe Greenwell, Jaguar and Land Rover vice president, Mark Fields, executive vice president of PAG, plus Mike Wright and Matthew Taylor, respective managing directors of Jaguar and Land Rover.

PAG’s other brand, Volvo, is developing a sales and distribution network for the various brands and last year sales in China were Volvo (2,500), Land Rover (430) and ten Jaguars.

Jaguar carried out an official brand launch in March and will use five sales and service points, selling XJ and S-Type with the X-Type available on an order only basis.

Rolls-Royce, optimistic that China will emerge as one of its larger volume territories, has three sales operations.

MINI, launched in Beijing last summer, generated 1,263 sales across China, Taiwan and Hong Kong during 2003 and to date this year has sold 374 units.

Good cars are uban art, says Steve Coogan

Comedian Steve Coogan’s visit to The Sunday Times Motor Show Live turned in to a trip down memory lane, as he recalled the days when he would organise school trips to the show.

“I’ve been coming to the motor show for years, and as a 12 and 13 year old I used to arrange getting my mates together for a visit to the NEC.

” Car design is a big hobby of mine and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the new Aston Martin DB9. If I hadn’t become an actor I would love to have been a car designer. Cars that look good are a form of urban art.”

Corrie stars past and present

Cogan wasn’t the only recognisable face at the show, the boys from Coronation Street past and present came in force.

Kevin Kennedy (Curly Watts), Jonathan Wrather (Joe Carter) and Simon Gregson (Steve McDonald) spent hours playing with the cars and took a ride in the woods at the 4×4 Experience.

Gregson, who’s competing in a track race later in the year, was particularly enthusiastic visiting exhibitors; he’s on the look out for a car sponsor for his racing debut!

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