The world's automakers will make new efforts to win customers over with more environmentally friendly cars at the Frankfurt Auto Show this week as they tout new vehicles with hybrid propulsion and more advanced, cleaner engines.
The show, which runs from Sept. 13-23, will reflect concerns about high gas prices, fuel efficiency and global warming by putting green products and technologies front and center: lower-emission diesels, new hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells _ some market-ready, others as concepts.
Auto industry green expert Ted Grozier said the show will see the industry keep up its efforts to reduce its reliance on gas-guzzling larger vehicles.
"The conventional wisdom is that the U.S. will go hybrid and in Europe the diesel is being challenged," said Grozier of Green Order, a New York-based advisory group that counts General Motors Corp., among others, as clients for its advice on how to make cars cleaner.
"This may be a pivotal year for the industry in the battle for greener cars and the gloves have come off," he said.
Indeed, BMW AG, Porsche AG, Volkswagen AG and DaimlerChrysler AG will all be showing cars with low-emission diesel engines, hybrids that feature electricity to augment traditional fuel motors as well as hydrogen fuel cell concepts that BMW is researching. All of it is part of the effort to make high-mileage, cleaner cars that also meet drivers' expectations for performance.
"Our customers can rest assured that their Mercedes will also in future meet the most stringent requirements in terms of safety, comfort and effortless superiority, and that they will do so with exemplary green credentials," said DaimlerChrysler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche.
Swedish automaker Volvo AB, owned by Ford Motor Co., will have its plug-in hybrid concept at the show. Called the ReCharge and based on its C30 hatchback, the hybrid is similar to GM's Chevrolet's Volt, which was unveiled at the Detroit auto show earlier this year.
Like the Volt, the ReCharge uses four separate electric motors to power each wheel, augmenting a 1.6-liter four-cylinder Flexifuel engine. Volvo says a fully charged model can travel about 100 kilometers (more than 60 miles) on electricity alone before the engine takes over.
It's not just the automakers touting their green credentials. German insurer Allianz SE said it would start offering cheaper insurance to people who drive eco-friendly cars in Germany.
"There are indications that environmentally conscious drivers are also good insurance customers," Allianz said.
Ford will show off current models under its ECOnetic label that produce a lower level of emissions.
Volkswagen will debut five models, along with a version of its mainstay Golf, that use refinements it calls BlueMotion to reduce emissions to 119 grams per kilometer (4.2 ounces for just slightly more than every half mile) from 135 grams (4.7 ounces).
France's PSA Peugeot-Citroen will have its 308 BioFlex compact at the show. The car uses biofuels, or fuel obtained from crops. GM will go a step further and unveil a hydrogen fuel cell-powered car.
The show is also the chance for automakers to explore new concepts and designs that may or may not take shape on the assembly line.
Ford is eager to pique consumer interest in its new subcompact concept car, the Verve, which if successful could be the basis of a new small car for global sales. Designed in Europe, the Verve concept has a rounded design and is demonstrably smaller than most cars on U.S. roads.
Derrick Kuzak, head of Ford's global product development, said the automaker plans to launch a new subcompact worldwide between 2008 and 2010 and the Verve is "very representative of what you'll see."
Chrysler LLC, newly divorced from DaimlerChrysler and now privately held, will feature its 2009 Journey, a sporty crossover wagon. Journey is the company's first crossover and will go on sale in North America, Europe and Asia next year.
Crossovers are car-based vehicles that have many of the attributes of a sport utility vehicle but generally are lighter and more fuel efficient. They took root 11 years ago with the introduction of Toyota's RAV 4 and are the fastest growing segment in the industry, with about 70 models expected to be on the market by 2009.
Dodge is Chrysler's best-selling U.S. brand, with a 6.5 percent share in the U.S. market in 2006, according to Autodata Corp. But the company has struggled to make a dent overseas, and it is counting on the Dodge Journey to help. Chrysler is aiming for a 1.4 percent market share in Western Europe by 2009, or more than double its share in 2005.
Associated Press Auto Writers Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit contributed to this report.
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