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It's corny, but Citroen's stand wins visual battle

As motor show unveilings go, it was not among the most auspicious. BMW's latest model, the new Mini, was revealed to seated journalists at the Paris motor show, who, at best, caught sight of the Cooper's white roof.

Those on adjoining stands could see more as BMW chairman Joachim Milberg explained how the group was evolving into three distinct brands: BMW, Rolls-Royce and Mini.

In all its branding, BMW uses MINI which, as one motor industry executive observed, was odd when at the same time the group was playing on the 41-year-old heritage of a famed mini car. But the newcomer is significantly longer and wider, and will cost more than the original which ceased production this month.

By one of those ironies of motor show life, the Mini stand was back-to-back with Land Rover, sold by BMW to Ford as part of the break-up of the old Rover Group. Otherwise, the families of car marques were mainly grouped together in the stands around the halls.

The evening before Paris show press day, Ford Motor Company staged a dinner for journalists who had the chance to chat to senior executives from Jaguar, Volvo and the rest of the family.

Chief executive Jac Nasser, introducing the heads of the divisions, fired from the hip in his customary manner by asking why all Ford's “best brands” were at the back. Ford of Europe boss Nick Scheele, sitting at a table right in front of the stage, was reminded of the blue oval's place in the new pecking order.

Then came the unveiling of the new Mondeo with an interior paying homage to the skills of VW and Audi (and all the better for it). There is a hint of Ford's 'new edge' styling but this was softened during development once global style head J Mays focused on it.

Ford (with Volvo, Jaguar and Mazda) was in a corner of the main hall which was dominated by the huge stands of Peugeot and Citroen which were across the central aisle from Renault and its partner Nissan.

Citroen, showing the C5, was imaginative in its stand design. There was a grassy bank which might have come off the Teletubbies set, and a 'hillside' of corn. Renault's stand (revealing new Laguna) appeared to have required substantial deforestation to make it possible. There were huge areas of wooden walls and flooring, making it impressive in a sense though hardly inviting.

In complete contrast, Smart lived up to its name, squeezed into a tiny area between Chrysler Jeep and Mercedes-Benz (its group companions) in the far corner to Ford. The area was well lit, modern-cool in its style and featuring the Smart coupe concept which is tiny, low and lean. Size does not always matter at motor shows.

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