War Reaction in Paris

photo: lone prairie

Out on the lone prairie near the Cadillac Ranch.

'Creator of Automobiles'

Paris:- Thursday, 20. March 2003:- The principal evening national TV-news on the commercial channel TF1 and on the state-operated channel France-2 starts here at 20:00.

Tonight, from 20:00 onwards, France-2 carried repeated video-clips supposedly of the US-British attack on Iraq. I write 'supposedly' because identical video-clips were used repeatedly to illustrate actions that had taken part in Baghdad, on the frontier between Kuwait and Iraq, and in the vicinity of the Iraqi town of Umm Osar.

This 'news' was rotated non-stop before any mention was made of popular demonstrations protesting against the war against Iraq - which started in the Middle East about 03:30 Paris time today.

After 80 minutes, at 21:20 a list of protest demonstrations began on TV-news, and included video-clips of students in Korea, Britain, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, Palestinians in Israel, with a statement from the Vatican thrown into the round-up for good measure. Demonstrations in cities around France were also shown in short video-clips.

Finally, at 21:25, France-2 TV-news decided to mention that there had been a demonstration in Paris. This officially began at 18:30 in the Place de la Concorde. Its traffic had been halted in the afternoon and nearby métro stations were closed.

The United States Embassy in Paris is located on the edge of the Place de la Concorde, and it was heavily defended by police, CRS anti-riot units and military troops. TV-news crews were not allowed to approach closer than 150 metres to the embassy. No American officials made themselves available for statements.

France-2's TV cameras did not show any overhead views of the huge place, so it was impossible to estimate the number of protestors. It looked as though the place was full, but not tightly packed. Some opposition political leaders were shown and heard, and it was mentioned later that there were 20,000 students in the place. No other estimate of the crowd's size was given.

Judging from the level of light shown in the video coverage, much of the filming was done long before sundown, which was just after 19:00. Later video, probably shot shortly after sundown, showed some demonstrators marching up the Rue de Rennes towards Montparnasse.

Along the way, TV-news said a McDonald's outlet was trashed, with its windows being broken. The popular Paris reaction to the beginning of the war occupied no more than five minutes of TV-news. No other French or world news unrelated to the war was shown during the 90 minutes I watched tonight's 'news.'

'Creator of Automobiles'

Monday, 17. March 2003:- 'Creator of Automobiles' is the slogan that is in the closing shot of TV-ads for Renault cars, and the preceding video-clip might almost make you think it is true.

The 'Avantime' was introduced at an International Auto Salon in the late '90s. I can't say which one, because it was a 'concept' car easy to overlook. But Renault decided to build it anyway and the market decided its fate, with the result of closing the production line a few weeks ago after only 5000 had been built.

Every manufacturer is allowed an occasional flop, but this one was bitter because the car was assembled by Matra, and the 'Avantime's demise killed the factory and threw 948 highly-qualified automobile workers out of their jobs in the town of Romorantin.

Continental automakers who are not Mercedes or BMW dream of making cars to compete with the top of the line models of these two companies. In France, Peugeot seems satisfied with always having a big model a bit less than tops, but Renault has higher ambitions.

This was to be the 'Avantime.' It looked a bit like their 'Espace' van model, but with only two passengerphoto: ile st louis, ils de la cite doors - it was a two-door coupé - and the rear-end - yes, the rear-end was kind of a problem area. It looked like the front-end of one of the SNCF's older diesel locomotives.

In Paris by the islands on Saturday.

It went into production after a two-year delay caused by manufacturing problems. Some called it the 'Aftertime.' Automobile journalists said Matra had problems with its aluminum body and its panoramic glass roof.

When Renault finally offered it for sale, it was with limited options. It was supposed to be 'sporty,' despite its clunky looks. It came with a 210 hp V6 and a manual 6-speed transmission. No automatic was offered, and the price was 40,000euro 3 sign.

To compound the flop, Renault has another model called the 'Vel Satis' that came on the market six months after the 'Avantime,' and Renault gave it the promotional push. Customers were confused, mixing up the two cars.

I mean, Renault says this. The fact is that Renault designs its cars 'in house' and isn't known for making nifty-looking ones. Renault seems to ignore the other fact that the French used to buy Citroën's sleek DS model in large numbers, and over a long period of time. Maybe deep down the French don't like ugly cars.

Renault had Matra build the 'Avantime' because it didn't have the technology to do it itself. In order forphoto: banners, demonstrators, opera bastille Matra to make it, Renault decided to move its 'Espace' production to another site - costing Matra the 300 'Espace' units it was building per day.

Demonstrators and their banners at Bastille.

Meanwhile, Renault is still hoping that the public's taste will warm up for the 'Vel Satis,' which is stumbling along with sales of just 12,000 last year. However if you are a gambler, there are some new 'Avantimes' around at discount prices. All you need to do is find a garage to store one in for 25 years.

Matra Dies II

Jean-Luc Lagardère, Matra's boss since 1977, died on Thursday night at the age of 75. He left behind a diversified multinational conglomerate with about 13 billion euros of turnover.

After taking over the powerful commercial radio station Europe 1 in 1974, he turned Matra into a specialist for racing cars - but its real vocation was armaments, missiles and rocket launchers, in competition with Dassault.

Matra racing was once famous, innovative and a winner. It also conceived of the modern van - the 'Espace ' - that replaced the VW bus. The 'monospace' concept was sold as an idea to Renault. With a composite body, it was suported by a Renault sedan R20 mechanical platform. Ever bigger over the years, the 'Espace IV' is its latest version.

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