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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
Paris Motor Show kicks off
Paris Motor Show 2000
Thousands of people are expected to visit the show

No fewer than 29 world premiers were launched when Europe's largest motor show opened its doors for press previews on Thursday, ahead of Saturday's opening for the public.

The global premiers, along with dozens of cars never seen before in Europe, make the Paris Motor Show a key barometer of the market.

The show is also a stage for car executives, who will be on location to tell the world where they are heading.

Announcements of massive sales pushes, cost cutting and predictions of mergers and acquisitions will accompany the new models.

4x4 market

Kicking off the event on the eve of press day was the launch of Porsche's Cayenne 4x4, the company's first in the increasingly crowded market for so-called Sports Utility Vehicles.

Porsche Cayenne
Porsche is shifting away from its sporty image
The car will compete with Volkswagen's new Touraeg, also to be launched in Paris, as well as with BMW's X5, the Land Rover Discovery Toyota's new Landcruiser and others.

"We know that the customer base is waiting for this," Porsche chief Wendelin Wiedeking told BBC News, denying that this car would dilute the German car maker's sporty brand.

Serious luxury

But the real star of the show was the Bentley GT Coupe.

The baby Bentley illustrate the strategy of its parent Volkswagen for entering the market for hyper-luxurious cars.

Its main competitors will be DaimlerChrysler's Maybach, also on view for the first time in Paris although the car was launched behind a black screen in Geneva in March, and BMW's Rolls-Royce, which will be launched in January.

Small yet large

Among smaller cars that will attract much attention, the Citroen C3 Pluriel is perhaps the most spectacular.

This car is described as a five-in-one car: it can be transformed from a saloon to a convertible to a pick-up truck in a matter of minutes.

The car was launched along with bold sales predictions.

PSA Peugeot Citroen aims to sell a whopping four million cars in 2006, a 23% rise on this year's expected sales, said the group's chairman Jean-Martin Folz.

Kylie's car

Another small car which has attracted attention is Ford's new Streetka, a two-seater Ka without a roof.

The main focus of the car's launch was the superstar Kylie Minogue who, after having admitted that "I've never been to a car show", caused a commotion when she unveiled the little vehicle with the words "Are we all ready to see the new Ford Streetka?"

And of course, the answer was yes.

Described by the motoring press as a half-price Audi TT, the Streetka will undoubtedly do well.

And reworking an old model into a new star may just be a good idea when money is tight.

Ford Europe chief operating officer Martin Leach said the company was raising its profit forecast slightly for 2003.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Angela Garvey
"It's all about being chic"

Cars and strategies

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