These days, you can't just talk about next year's new models. Part one of two parts - Look for European models next month Man, it used to be so simple:

The new model year started in October. Dealers papered their windows and on the agreed-upon day, yanked at the paper and - WOW - there was your first look at the '62 Chevies.

Then, automakers discovered the power of the media. "Sneak previews" and "long leads" ensued. Soon, savvy industry watchers knew a lot about the new model year and maybe even stole a few looks at the next year's cars in, say, May or June instead of October.

Now it's October of 2000 and we've already seen a raft of '01 models. Automakers continually are pushing the introduction envelope, so much so that as soon as it's January '01, they're rushing to park '02 models in the showroom.

So we're trying to keep pace. This month we'll give you a synopsis of what's happening with the major automakers. Often, that means talking as much about '02 models as the more-imminent '01s.

Ward's Communications editors Brian Corbett, Alisa Priddle, Bill Visnic, Katherine Zachary and Andrea Wielgat contributed to these stories - with Mr. Visnic also offering his fearless showroom forecasts.