GENEVA - Sport/utility vehicles (SUVs) may not easily fit in European garages, parking spots or on Europe's narrow streets, but if the Geneva auto show is any indication, automakers hope local customers just don't care.
And if European automakers expect to hit a home run when most of the vehicles displayed at the show hit European dealerships sometime this year, they also face an equally tough hurdle: hoping that many of those drivers will be willing to get a second job just to pay for high-priced fuel.
Motor Co. and its Motor Corp. affiliate will launch their latest SUVs in Europe during the second half of the year. The Ford Maverick and the Mazda Tribute are based on the same platform and have common engines.
The Maverick, a rebadged Escape, will be offered with the same two engines - a 2L 4-cyl. Zetec and a 3L V-6 Duratec - as the U.S. version.'s Tribute has inde-pendent suspension with a front strut and multi-link in the rear. The Tribute is equipped with on-demand four-wheel drive, which senses when front wheels begin to slip and hydraulically transfers power to the rear wheels for traction, says Mazda.
Motor Co. Ltd. invested $230 million to develop its Santa Fe SUV. The company claims the vehicle is not a cleverly disguised truck but a refined driveable 4wd vehicle.
The Santa Fe is equipped with several engines, including an all-aluminum 2.7L V-6 mated to a full-time 4wd system and a 2.4L I-4 two-wheel-drive system with an optional 4wd system. A turbocharged, intercooled 2L diesel engine also is available.
Motor Co.'s new RAV4 will hit European dealerships this summer.
says it was re-engineered for better performance and fuel economy and improved emissions.
The automaker has given its small SUV a more rounded shape and lengthened its wheelbase and improved interior height and width.
Toyota has installed its 1.8L and 2L engines in the vehicle. The 2L version has permanent 4wd, while the 1.8L is only available in front-drive.
Motors Corp. is adding the new '01 Pajero to its European SUV lineup. The Pajero has a monocoque body, with a built-in frame that is suspended on an all-wheel inde-pendent suspension system. The vehicle is equipped with MMC's 3.5L V-6 gasoline direct injection and a 3.2L direct-injection diesel.
Audi AG shows its answer to the SUV - the Allroad quattro (see story, p.65). Based on the A6 Avant, the Allroad has a wide track and higher body along with a more muscular appearance. The vehicle is equipped with a 2.7L 250 hp biturbo or a 2.5L V-6 180 hp TDI. It has permanent all-wheel drive and a 4-level air suspension.
Here's a few other non-SUV, non-AWD introductions from Geneva:
* Alfa Romeo's new Sportwagon hit dealers showrooms in Italy in late March after its introduction at the show. The vehicle will build on the popularity of the 156 sports sedan, which was launched in 1997 to rave reviews and swift sales. The Sportwagon combines qualities of a sports car with the versatility of a car with a tailgate, fold-down seat and a large luggage compartment, says Alfa. It is equipped with a choice of six engines.
* Peugeot SA's 607 Feline roadster concept has a heat-insulated bubble top with "hydrophobic" water-repelling windshield, doors without side windows and a sliding rear window. The concept has a V-6 engine and what Peugeot calls a radical double A-strut suspension. Peugeot also showed off its 607 Paladine con-vertible limousine.
* DaimlerChrysler AG will add its newmidsize sedan, the Sebring, to European dealerships late this year. The car, which will be sold as a sedan and convertible but not as a coupe in Europe, will have several changes from the U.S. version, including smaller engines, standard side air bags, different wheels and a European suspension.