The world's automakers will seek to stifle more general concerns about a woeful global economy with boastful claims for their smaller, more environmentally friendly cars on display at the Paris Motor Show this week.
The show, which runs Oct. 4-19 after two press days beginning Thursday, will reflect the dual concerns of new emissions rules and higher gas prices, combined with the economic reality of cash-strapped consumers in North America and Europe.
The mantra will be that small and fuel-efficient is beautiful for mass-market cars, with a nod to the future of electric cars and hybrids that feature electricity to augment traditional fuel motors.
Citroen will unveil its C3 Picasso, a 4.08-meter-long (13.39-foot) multipurpose vehicle designed to be “small outside, big inside.” Ford will show the new Ka, a “cheeky small car” which landed a role in the new James Bond adventure “Quantum of Solace.” Hyundai will introduce the i20 subcompact, a would-be rival to the Renault Clio.
Renault and Volkswagen will introduce the revamped versions of two of Europe's top-selling cars – the Megane and Golf models – with lower emissions and greener engines.
In Europe, automakers are being forced to curb emissions by legislation that is shaping demand.
Worried that carbon dioxide emissions are rising, the European Union wants to set goals for each carmaker to sell more low-carbon models – and fine them if they don't.
The European Parliament will set a start date for curbing carbon emissions this month – as automakers complain that the stringent environmental regulation could hurt their businesses and jobs.
In addition, national governments are adding their own enticements to be green. In London, for example, low-carbon green cars – including many hybrids, small vehicles and electric cars – are exempt from the central London “congestion charge,” which costs most drivers 8 pounds ($14.40) a day to drive into central London.
Last year, France introduced a system of rebates and surcharges to encourage new car buyers to choose more environmentally friendly vehicles.