FRANKFURT — Even with the European market in a slump, auto makers are banking on new product in key segments to help breathe life into the region.

The most notable introductions on the show floor were at the Volkswagen AG and Adam Opel AG stands, where the staunch rivals took the wraps off their most critical volume products: the VW Golf and Opel Astra. Both cars have a more contemporary style than their predecessors and are packed with new features. While VW will be the first to market by just a few weeks, look for these two cars to define the automotive battle in Europe in the coming months.

VW also unveiled its Concept R roadster, which is close to getting the green light from VW's top brass.

VW's sibling, Audi AG, revealed its own stunning concept vehicle: the Le Mans Quattro, powered by a V-10.

While Audi says it is seriously considering production, don't expect the V-10 to be under the hood. That would be a little too close for comfort for another VW family member: Automobili Lamborghini SpA.

Opel showed its new Insignia concept vehicle, which rides on General Motors Corp.'s new global premium large-car platform. Look for a number of models off these underpinnings, with several destined for the U.S. market (see story, p.46).

Mercedes-Benz unveiled its new Vision CLS concept, a 4-seat coupe/sedan. The vehicle has more than enough room for four passengers, although its styling is more reminiscent of a coupe. The concept is one that Mercedes has been keen on for several years.

Ford Motor Co. showed its Visos concept, a 2+2 sports coupe that takes some of its styling cues from the Capri. Ford says the concept provides a glimpse of the future styling direction it will take in Europe.

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. debuted its new Dunehawk concept vehicle, which mixes attributes of a multipurpose vehicle with the functionality of an SUV. It could be the next Pathfinder.

Toyota Motor Corp. revealed its CS&S (Compact Sport and Specialty) concept vehicle, a 2+2 mid-engine car with 4-wheel drive and a hybrid powertrain system.

Proving the Italians still have the flare to design stunning concept cars, Alfa Romeo stole the show with its 8c Competizion. The 2-seat sports car was designed to take on the likes of Porsche's 911. Look for this car to be given the nod quickly as a result of the overwhelming positive response.

In terms of vehicles to be seen on a road near you, BMW AG showed off its new 6-Series coupe, which is based on the recently introduced 5-Series family. Also fresh on the BMW stand were the new X3 and refreshed X5 SUVs.

Volvo Car displayed its highly anticipated S40 replacement, which is derived from underpinnings of the all-new Mazda3 sedan and 5-door wagon, also making debuts at the show.

Chrysler debuted its new 300C Touring wagon, which will not be sold in North America out of concern it could steal sales from the Pacifica. And its overall shape mimics the upcoming Dodge Magnum, although the wagon follows the styling theme created by the 300C sedan.

The Subaru Legacy, Outback and G3X Justy also made world premiers. Maserati SpA debuted its new Quattroporte sedan, which will go on sale in Europe in early 2004 and in July 2004 in the U.S.

Fiat Auto SpA launched its new Panda and Idea MPVs — both critical parts of Fiat's revival plan.

Mercedes-Benz's much-heralded SLR sports coupe made its debut, too. Powered by a supercharged V-8, this car is poised to give Lamborghini and Ferrari SpA a run for their money.

Smart unleashed its new Forfour, the largest vehicle to carry the Smart moniker. The 4-door sedan-like vehicle will be the basis for Smart's introduction into the U.S. market.

Finally, Aston Martin took the wraps off its DB9, which becomes the successor to the storied DB7.
with Alisa Priddle and Peter Robinson