The best gossip at the Paris motor show 2014

Published: 03 October 2014

CAR magazine has been reporting live from the Paris motor show this week and you can stay abreast of the highlights with our live gallery, Gavin Green’s take on the show and the full A-Z of every new car launched at the Mondial de l’Automobile.

Here’s a selection of the best gossip, rumours and chit-chat doing the rounds among the journalists swarming over the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre.

Land Rover celebrity fluffs her lines

Embarrassment over at the Land Rover waterborne launch of the Disovery Sport on the river Seine on Wednesday afternoon. The company hired supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who did her breed no favours whatsoever when she announced to assembled floatees how pleased she was to be launching the ‘Discovery Range Rover.’ The PRs’ jaws dropped in shock, but maybe it’s a Freudian slip; after all, the Disco Sport does move much closer to the Evoque and further from the farmyard.

The Espace and the rise of the crossover

If Renault’s Espace has become a crossover, does that mean the 2016 Scenic replacement will follow suit? No, it’ll remain a conventional MPV, says a Renault source, because forthcoming C- and D-segment crossovers will do the Qashqai-thing for La Regie.

New Ferrari boss: sales growth ahead

New Ferrari chief Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat group leader who succeeds the excommunicated Luca di Montezemolo, suggested that he would drive further sales growth of Maranello products. But he reckons he can do that while keeping exclusivity. Reports of 10,000 annual sales are inaccurate; he merely suggested that Ferrari should grow sales and five figures were not implausible. The challenge? Bringing waiting lists down and protecting residual values. He even suggested that limited edition cars such as the LaFerrari could be built in greater numbers in future. But that’s a tricky tightrope to walk…

François Hollande drops in on the French brands

French premier Hollande arrived on Friday morning in hall 1 amidst a media scrum to support the homegrown manufacturers. It’s a good bit of PR: the PSA and Renault stands were looking unusually confident, with strong showings by the new Espace and Eolab, C1 Urban Ride and Divine concepts, and Quartz crossover. France is on a roll and it’s great news for those of us cheering for a Gallic raid on the German powerhouses of Europe.

Hottest stand at the show

Various manufacturers’ staff complained of the heat under the glare of arc lights. Our pick of the hottest stand, by temperature at least? Mercedes’ red-hot corner stand in hall 5…

Citroen’s new pay-as-you-drive scheme

You could pay for your new Citroën as flexibly as you do your mobile phone, when the company launches a new scheme called Flexidrive on the C4 Cactus from January. Thanks to black box technology, your monthly lease payments could alter depending on your mileage – and you should avoid a nasty surprise at the end of your term, if you over-run the limit. Assuming you don’t mind your movements being tracked by Citroën, that is…

The cost of going lightweight

Over to Audi where R&D supremo Ulrich Hackenberg told assembled hacks how tricky his job was. Enthusiasts like us applaud lightweight tech (see praise lavished upon teeny-weeny Mazda MX-5 at the Paris motor show), but it comes at a cost. ‘The price of steel today stands at around €2 per kilogramme. Aluminum? Between €5-10 a kilo. And carbonfibre or composites thereof cost us around €35-90, depending on the mix.’ Which is why it’s not a question of simply adding lightweight any more. There’s still a huge cost attached.

Infiniti’s design renaissance

Nissan’s upmarket wing knows it is way behind where it wants to be in Europe. The Q80 Inspiration concept car is supposed to rekindle interest in the premium brand. Simon Cox, the recently installed chief of the firm’s spangly new Paddington design centre in London, tells CAR his job is to make Infiniti more relevant. ‘We felt we needed a new DNA. Infiniti’s brand values are now Provocation, Passion, Performance and Precision. We want to be different, but in a likeable way. We must not alienate people…’

Blue is the colour

Veteran Volkswagen advanced designer Peter Wouda explains why the VW XL Sport and Lamborghini Asterion 910-4 both arrived in a shockingly similar shade of electric blue. ‘It’s a very on-trend colour. Blue allows us to play with contrasts – the XL Sport has a semi-glossy, silk blue paint work which picks out the chrome and other elements on the car.’ You heard it here first: zingy blues are the next big thing.

Get appy at BMW

BMW’s Connected Drive app store should get traction, now that all BMWs are fitted with sim cards. Second hand car buyers can use the app store to upgrade features such as live traffic updates, and automatic software updates become a breeze. 

Shockwaves of the Jaguar XE

The new XE saloon is making the Germans sit up and take note. One senior Audi executive we met predicted it would steal a certain share from cars such as the A4 – and they’re moving to offer tempting deals to counter the threat. ‘And don’t forget we have a new A4 coming next year. The XE might launch strongly, but we reckon it’ll plateau fairly swiftly.’ Fighting talk.

Merc’s 911

Guess which Mercedes-AMG GT will sell most strongly? The £95,000 base model? Nope. The UK execs are confident the £110,000 GT S will sell more strongly. ‘At this end of the market, a few extra grand makes no difference,’ said one official.

More Mercedes naming shenanigans

Mercedes is considering a new naming convention, affecting 4x4s and sports cars. The GL becomes the GLS, the ML switches to GLE, and the GLK wears the GLC badge. Why? It’s to subtly align them with the road cars: the GLS is the ‘S-class of Merc 4x4s’, the ML the E-class equivalent, and the GLC a throwback to London’s governance in the 1980s. Sorry, GLC is aligned with the C-class. Meanwhile, the SLK is tipped to wear the SLC badge. Got that?

It never rains, it pours…

Volvo’s show stand was ringed by a curtain of misty droplets dampening show-goers on arrival. And the central display XC90 had a full-on monsoon drenching it at half hourly intervals. We saw at least one hapless hack get a drenching by ignoring staff instructions to avoid the shower danger zone.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet