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GM FastLane:City of Lights Not So Bright

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The WTCC Ultra Concept Car

By Bob Lutz

GM Vice Chairman

It’s always nice to attend a world-class international motor show in one of the world’s great cities, so last week’s Paris show was circled in red on a lot of calendars, including mine.

Perhaps I’ve just become jaded from so many years of so many shows, but for some reason, this year’s Paris show just didn’t seem up to its usual high standards, at least in terms of exciting vehicle introductions. There wasn’t any one brilliant concept car or show-stealing production vehicle introduction that leaped out at you. Or maybe I’m not too jaded because, in conversations with others at the show, I learned I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.

Not that the show was without its highlights. I must say, the new Ford Mondeo is quite impressive. It’s terrifically styled, and it’s a clear sign that Ford of Europe’s design team has its act together.

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Opel Antara

We had a couple of introductions that clearly show GM Global Design has its act together, too. We had good response to the unveiling of the new Opel Antara, which I think looks just great. If you look closely enough, you’ll see a sneak peek of the next-generation Saturn Vue, which we’ll introduce next month in Los Angeles. GM had another debut, the Chevrolet WTCC concept, a look at what a World Touring Car Championship entry might be like. It also may offer a glimpse at what future GM global small cars may look like down the road...

On the whole, the show gave you a sense of where the industry is headed… namely toward smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. And I’m not talking tiny, either — the Antara is a good example of a sizeable crossover with good fuel economy.

With worries about fuel prices in North America, the U.S. market is inching closer to where the European market has been for years — emphasis on those smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles. And they sacrifice nothing in terms of luxury and comfort with those vehicles, either. As I told The Wall Street Journal, people in Europe buy $30,000 VW Golfs.

I believe eventually the U.S. market will reach that point, if gas prices continue to be an issue. Or if the U.S. government ever does what I’ve always said it should do if it wants to drive people toward more fuel-efficient vehicles, and that’s raise the gas tax gradually every year until it approaches European levels.

That’s the only way to do it — you can’t legislate people’s vehicle choices through CAFE increases. As I’ve said before, that’s like trying to address the obesity problem in this country by forcing clothing manufacturers to sell smaller, tighter sizes. It just doesn’t work that way.



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