Shiny stars come out to play at Paris motor show
BOLD and beautiful ...
European car makers did their best to put on a happy face at this year's Paris motor show, despite gloomy economic conditions that have meant job cuts, factories earmarked for closure and predictions that car sales in Europe this year will be at their lowest for 17 years.
Mercedes-Benz led the charge with an electric supercar - the $1.25million SLS Electric Drive - that is as expensive as it is impractical, while local hero Peugeot countered with a hybrid rival for the Porsche 911 and Jaguar unveiled a successor to the E-Type.
But behind the typical hype and bravado were some of the most important new-model launches of recent times.
Heavyweights Volkswagen and Toyota revealed their rival Golf and Corolla small cars, while luxury leader BMW signalled its intent to steal more sales from mainstream rivals with its new, predominantly front-wheel-drive small car.
There were continuing nods to the environment - and impending tough European and US laws on vehicle emissions - with Mercedes unveiling an electric version of the B-Class and Nissan pulling the covers off a fuel-cell version of the Juke mini off-roader.
Peugeot, General Motors, Audi and Fiat all showed baby SUVs, targeting the big growth segment of the new-car market. GM's Trax baby SUV will arrive Down Under with a Holden badge next year.
Peugeot injected a bit of spice into proceedings with a new 208GTi, while sister brand Citroen unveiled a rag-top DS3.
Here are the stars of the show.
A new hybrid-powered coupe concept that gives a strong hint as to how the next-generation IS midsize model will look when it launches next year, the Lexus Future Coupe Concept launches the next iteration of the luxury brand's styling language, with a prominent ''spindle" grille and quirky wheel-hugging bumper designed to be aerodynamic, as well as send more air to the engine bay and brakes.
The concept confirms Lexus's intentions to take on Mercedes-Benz's C-Class and the BMW 3-Series with a two-door coupe.
Having axed its Le Mans racing project late last year in preparation for the economic crisis, the French brand needed something to do with its racing machines - the Onyx is the result.
The wide, angular concept uses the same diesel-electric hybrid powertrain originally destined for the world's most famous endurance race.
It's a 447kW 3.7-litre V8 turbo- diesel paired with a kinetic energy recovery system that gives a power boost under acceleration.
The Onyx is also an opportunity for the company's boffins to experiment with new materials inside and out.
The bodywork is made from a mixture of carbon fibre and copper - which is untreated, so its finish will evolve over time. The interior is a minimalist affair with the seats, the console and the floor made from a single piece of carbon fibre covered in felt.
Four-wheel drive, three motors, one fuel cell and zero emissions. They're the highlights from Nissan's electric SUV concept - dubbed TerrA.
Although the compact body and interior styling have a futuristic bent, the drivetrain beneath is more likely to head into production.
The front wheels are powered by the electric motor used in the Nissan Leaf but the rear wheels have in-wheel electric motors; providing AWD traction when needed. Electricity can be generated by a hydrogen fuel cell under the bonnet.
Created to preview the exterior styling treatment set to grace the next generation of Smart models, the three-door ForStars hatchback also hints at what Smart describes as a new SUC (sports utility coupe). It's so named because of the way its glass roof structure allows occupants to peer into the sky.
BMW Concept Active Tourer
While in essence a concept crossover people-mover, the Concept Active Tourer is the car that previews the brand's first-ever front-wheel drive model.
The Concept Active Tourer is a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid.
The car seems set to heavily influence the design, packaging, ride and handling of the German marque's next generation of small vehicles, which will offer the choice of either front or four-wheel drive.