The smallest of the world's major international auto shows, Geneva holds its own when it comes to new vehicle launches. Opening earlier this month at the Palexpo exhibition center, showgoers have the opportunity to glimpse everything from production vehicles to concept supercars.

Among the highlights are not one but two new vehicles bearing the Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. wings — the new V-12 Vanquish supercar and a concept vehicle from ItalDesign SpA.

The launch of the Vanquish was delayed from the 2000 Birmingham auto show until Geneva after new Aston Martin Chairman Ulrich Bez decided the interior needed upgrading. But the wait is well worth it. Priced less than the DB7 but upwards of $200,000, the vehicle embodies power, beauty and soul, Mr. Bez says.

Italian designer Fabrizio Giugiaro's vision for a future Aston Martin model, called the Twenty Twenty, battles it out with the Vanquish as the two cars come face to face on different but nearby stands. Twenty Twenty is a radically different interpretation for an Aston cabrio that owes nothing, apart from its traditional grill, to previous Astons. The car's targa-top design highlights its aluminium space frame construction, a feature first seen on Giugiaro's 1998 Structura concept car.

The non-load bearing body, styled by the father-and-son team of Giorgetto and Fabrizio Giugiaro, is plastic and carbon fiber.

Bez, who worked closely with Giugiaro during his time at Daewoo Motor Co. Ltd., did no more than provide Giugiaro with a V-12 DB7 platform and mechanicals. “We're flattered that international designers like Giugiaro should want to pay attention to Aston Martin,” Mr. Bez says. “It's an interesting design, but it's Giugiaro's vision. They designed it; they've built it and executed it. It's their idea for an Aston Martin of the future. We've given our opinion. But it's not a concept for the DB8.”

Also garnering attention at the show is the vehicle that will relaunch Fiat SpA's ailing Lancia brand. Thesis (pronounced Tay-sis in Italian), replaces the Kappa but is aimed directly at the BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Jaguar S-Type.

The new front-wheel-drive car is powered by a choice of a 2.4L 5-cyl. or a 3L V-6 gasoline engine, while an Isuzu Motors Ltd.-sourced 3.5L turbodiesel replaces Fiat Auto's 5-cyl. diesel.

Should the vehicle be successful, there's also a loose plan to add a General Motors Corp. V-8 engine, probably Cadillac's Northstar, to the lineup.

Styled by an in-house team led by Michael Robinson, Lancia's American design boss, the Thesis draws on the 1998 Dialogos concept car for its design themes, including the traditional stand-alone Lancia grille. The car offers a number of firsts in terms of electronic technology and in-car information. Lancia claims the Thesis's huge and luxurious interior also breaks new ground in its use of both advanced and traditional materials.

As of press time, Volkswagen AG was expected to show a luxury sedan of its own, with the D1 first seen at the Frankfurt auto show in 1999. The vehicle will go head-to-head with the Mercedes S-Class but will be priced significantly lower. A 5.6L W-12 is planned for top-of-the-line models, along with a 3.7L V-8 slated for less-expensive versions. A V-10 TDI 3.2L V-6, plus a V-8 diesel, are expected to be added later.

The car is packed with technology, including heat-sensitive door handles that pop out when touched, automatic climate controls, a navigation system, all-wheel-drive and an automatic transmission that can be shifted like a manual. D1 will be built at an all-new factory in Dresden, Germany.

Mazda Motor Corp.'s MX Sport Tourer concept vehicle combines the athletic styling and open-air fun of a sports car with the functionality of a wagon. A 2L S-VT engine together with an electric motor powers the concept. The Sport Tourer uses the gasoline unit through a new type of 4-wheel-drive system. Switching to the electric motor that drives the rear wheels produces zero emissions on city streets, Mazda says.

Geneva also will be the scene for the unveiling of the Fiat Bravo/Brava replacement. Now called the Stilo, the car will have one body style with two different door configurations including 3- and 5-doors. Both will be equipped with a choice of four gasoline engines and two common-rail turbodiesels.

Fiat says its Stilo is easy to get in and out, offers plenty of space inside and comes with a high driving position to make the driver feel more in control. The car is modular and adaptable because one front seat can be folded forward and the two sliding rear seats can be reclined independently. Because of its shape and size, it may tempt customers considering a multi-purpose vehicle.

Renault SA rolls out its Vel Satis replacement for the Safrane in Geneva, using the new Laguna platform and front-wheel drive. Planned engines include a 2L turbocharged I-4, 3.L V-6 diesel and 250-hp 3.5L V-6 from alliance partner Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. The French automaker also shows off the new Espace, built on the same platform as the Vel Satis.

Other debuts include the Opel Astra Cabrio; Skoda Fabia sedan; Honda Civic 3-door and Stream MPV; Nissan Serena MPV; Citroen C3 and Synergie MPV; Jaguar X-Type; Ford Focus RS and Mondeo ST concepts; Proton Waja; Peugeot 307; Porsche Cayenne; facelifted Mercedes A-Class; Pininfarina Osee; Bertone Filo; Rinspeed Rone; and Mitsubishi Colt.