All the Moaning, All the Woe

photo, auto salon, citroen c-metisse prototype Citroën has the biggest bootie at the Auto Salon.

Bootie Salon for Cars

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Saturday, 30. September:– The world's auto industry is hurting, so they say, and all the bigwigs showed up here for Paris' biannual show, the Mondial de l'Auto. The pres Jacques Chirac was down at the Porte de Versailles yesterday hobnobbing with the industrials and admiring the French product. I wonder if he's ever owned a car. I mean, he's got these state limos. They come standard with motorcycle flics as outriders, and with panzerglas windows.

All the moaning, all the woe. Everybody is cutting back, laying off. Except the Chinese, but they aren't exactly here, not yet. General Motors is talking to French state manufacturer Renault, because of clever Carlos, who pulled Nissan out of some swamp it was in. But Jacques doesn't ride around in a Renault, does he? No, the pres is always in a big Peugeot or Citroën – who are laying off 10,000.

Not that I have a car, but there I was today, down at the Porte de Versailles too – to check the problem out. Well, from what I saw, Renault's problem is simple. They are showing a prototype Twingo. The original is ten years old, but it still looks like a Twingo. The new one looks like a Bloopo. Most other Renaults look even worse – they look vaguely like Japanese cars you can't remember the names of. They look like the kinds of cars you don't even want to know the names of.

photo, auto salon, mazda Mazda nose hides Mazda bootie.

When Peugeot is on a roll it calls up Italian designers and gets a good job done, like on the Peugeot Coupé. Then they retouch it in France and it gets to looks like the bloated shark with dropsy. But nobody is immune from this – there's a German designer famed for putting a bustle on the bigger BMWs. You can tell this is awful because ten minutes later the Japanese and the Koreans are doing it too – on cars, trucks, buses, tractors and peddle cars for kiddies.

Of course I should mention that the really avant–garde designers in Asia spend their talents copying Citroën's strange shapes. For some unknown reason the Mercedes draftsmen copied the BMW bustle – Merc with bootie! – but Chrysler's car guys have completely ignored it, opting instead for the 1949 Mercury boomy tankwagon diesel locomotive look.

The real artists, the Italians, have some of their stuff at the salon. Unfortunately Fiat will need up to next September to roll out its company–saving Fiat 500 retro design. Kids mobbed their stand to lend a hand with the new–old look, and everybody ignored everything else. Across the way Lancia was puttering along as usual, with one nice sedan that looked like a car, one of the few in the building.

Alfa Romeo was right beside them, without too many changes for the worse to its successful line of red street racers. And, as they do, they featured one extremely red coupe, with an extremely huge mill, giant wheels, and did I say red? Alfa is the Ferrari for everyman with only a tenth of the money.

photo, auto salon, peugeot 407 cabrio The roof's off for Peugeot.

But there was a big mob around the Ferrari stand. That racing hustle pays off. Too bad it doesn't sell Fiats. When you tire of looking at red Ferraris and other people looking at red Ferraris you can go around the back and take a look at the Maseratis. This company makes very slick four–door – Quattroporte! – Italian hotrods. They always have a new one to drool over and they never put stupid booties on them.

Anyway, the new Twingo wasn't mobbed. I don't remember any Fords. They do have clean designs but they are not easy to remember, just like the Opels. Volvo had a new small car, the C20. This is a new car size, the same as the Audi A3, which pioneered the idea of a high–powered luxo Polo, for downtown bobos. Audi got carried away with its clean design and put a gaping Dodge Ram grille on it. Stupid.

Chrysler is carrying on with its red line too, at least for Dodge. There was one new model – I think it was a car – but the way they do them they seem to have the bulk almost of a SUV. The rear door and window and the trunk are, of course, from the bootie–school. They draped a curtain across the middle and set two teams on it, and they ended up with two different cars. Some designers like fronts, some designers like backs, but buyers have to take the whole mess.

photo, auto salon, audi r8 Banker's hotrod, Audi R8, tops 300 kph.

BMW was showing its new 3–series coupé. Unlike their others, this car has no bootie. There's hope for western civilization after all. Kind of orphaned, off by itself, there was a new white Z roadster with a fastback hardtop that was kind of slick. It was the best thing I've ever seen about this car.

And one of the nearby French bodybuilders was showing a Peugeot four–door convertible based on a 407 platform. This was on the TV–news tonight, and showed how its tricky hardtop folds away into the trunk. Open–topped, it looks a lot better than the sedan it's based on.

There weren't a lot of folks for the first day of the salon, which was fine with me. I only got jammed up a couple of times – near the Ferraris, and I took it as a popular vote. Another mob scene was milling around the Mini stand, where they were showing the Mini Cooper S, but else nothing really new. The new Mini has become the iPod of cars – fit for uTube, mySpace, eBay, and iBook of course.

I went over to the other hall where they have the dregs. The sub–mini cars you never heard of, the Hondas, some Koreans, Chinese, Russian Ladas. And then on my way out another hall had Volkswagon so I popped in there. VW had the salon's best music. Then I found another mob going crazy about Audi.

This used to be a brand only driven by German teachers, but they got into that Quattro business, and now they have V–8s, V–12s, and they are chasing Mercedes, as well as going after the bobos with that little A3 pocket rocket. Yes, so they have big sleek cars like limos and all sorts of teacher cars and middle management type cars, and some street racers, formula outrageous, like the new A8 they were showing.

photo, auto salon, twingo concept The new Twingo for spring of 2007.

But hell, even the Mini's speedo goes up to 240 kph. At the time when Joes are going to the Leclerc discount hypermarché and passing the gas pumps by to wheel out a buggy full of rapeseed oil, and some car makers are saying "tank up with H," there are some contradictions around. Like this thing I thought was a surf board carrier, until I realized that the flight deck was made of solar cells. Man, where will they put the surf boards then?

At this point I must say I've left a lot out. I am not interested in cars from Asia, South America, South Africa, Russia, Britain, Mexico, Canada, Finland, Bulgaria, Israel, Iran, or Egypt. I am not much interested in cars from other places either if they are not Italy.

But I am a bit curious about the Autodata I saw. I mean, it looked like the first car designed by cartoonists. Maybe I got the name wrong – maybe it's supposed to be Autodada. Maybe it's not a car at all. Maybe it's an Easter egg in September. Maybe pigs fly. See it on the Café page.

photo, logo, auto salon, flags

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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