News Column

Spyker's B6 Venator Designed to Take Off

March 7, 2013
Spyker B6 Venator. (
Spyker B6 Venator. (

For the last few years, Spyker's cars have been overshadowed by the automaker's struggle to revive the now-bankrupt Saab brand, but exotic cars are again at the forefront with the debut at the Geneva Motor Show this week of the B6 Venator concept.

Though technically a concept car, the midengine sports car is destined for production and is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. in fall 2014 with an expected price in the range of $125,000 to $150,000.

Spyker sports cars have had a certain outlandishness, with the various C8 models sporting turbine-style vents aplenty and an extravagant interior design. The new B6 Venator concept's appearance is relatively conventional in comparison. There's a large oval mesh grille, and the two-door's profile and roofline recall Lotus' Evora sports car.

The B6's design incorporates a number of aircraft cues -- a nod to Spyker's days of making airplanes at the beginning of the 20th century -- like a glass-canopy roof, LED taillights designed to mimic a jet afterburner and 19-inch fan-style wheels.

The aeronautic theme continues in the cabin. There's an ignition switch on the upper portion of the dashboard that initiates a pre-driving light-check sequence before the car is started, and the turned-aluminum dashboard is meant to recall classic airplane instrument panels.

The air vents look like miniature jet turbines, and the exposed gear selector linkage is another nod to airplane design.

With an aluminum chassis and carbon-fiber body, the B6 Venator concept tips the scales around 3,000 pounds. The midmounted V-6 is positioned transversely and drives the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Spyker claims power is in excess of 375 horsepower.

Ford hopes small SUV can drive European sales

At the Geneva show, Ford pulled the sheet off the European version of the updated global small hauler EcoSport designed in Brazil and on sale in South America. It is destined, says the company, for other world markets such as India and China, but no mention was made of the U.S.

EcoSport is a key new product for Europe, where Ford is being hit hard by the economic mess. When it goes on sale there at the end of this year, the EcoSport will be a smaller sibling in the lineup to the recently launched Kuga (as the Escape is known in Europe). Ford is expanding its Euro SUV line in response to increased popularity of the vehicles there and in 2014 will launch an upscale version of the next-generation Ford Edge. Ford says it also will begin building Explorers in Russia this year and that it hopes to sell a million SUVs in Europe in the next six years.

EcoSport powertrains for Europe will include the tiny 1.0-liter EcoBoost, headed for the U.S. as an option in the redone 2014 Fiesta small car (which shares the vehicle platform), as well as 1.5-liter gas and diesel engines.

The Euro EcoSport will feature the Sync voice-activated infotainment system. Safety systems include electronic stability. And for stick-shift-centric Europe, there is a hill launch assist.

Carmakers try to excite buyers amid Euro gloom

It is a tough time to be a European carmaker. Profits are falling as factories produce more costs than cars and fewer consumers are buying.

Despite the gloom, automakers rolled out an array of new models at the Geneva show, from hybrid supercars to sedans to smaller SUVs. All are being done in an attempt to lure buyers back -- or at least capture their imaginations. "Our industry is not an industry of rationality. It's also an industry of emotions. It's about brands, it's about attractive cars, it's about power, it's about handling, it's about opinions, it's about status," said Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn in Geneva, according to the Associated Press.

But Europe's carmakers are finding it harder to recover from the collapse of the car market in 2008 than their rivals in the U.S. and Asia.

New car registrations in Europe dropped 8.5% in January -- more than anyone expected -- and that is on top of a decline of 7.8% last year to 12.5 million vehicles. Even bedrock Germany, the engine of Europe, was suffering: Sales there fell 9% in January and 10% in February.

Auto execs are split over when the European car market will bounce back -- or whether it will. Ford Europe's Stephen Odell and Ghosn said it will be at least three years.

"Europe is going to be a very tough market for a while," Ghosn said. "The only question is, is it going to be bad or very bad?" But Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne expects a turnaround as soon as next year, adding that "a lot of it depends on the political resolve of the Europeans to find a way out of the quagmire."

In the last year, Ford Europe has begun union talks to close factories in Britain and Belgium to reduce capacity 18%, or 355,000 vehicles, by the end of next year. PSA Peugeot Citroen has announced it would cut about 8,000 jobs and close one factory, despite government and union resistance. Toyota Europe and Fiat are shifting their manufacturing footprint to better capture demand.

But unless European consumers start buying again, the industry remains on a collision course.

Marchionne calculates that four of Europe's biggest automakers -- Ford, PSA Peugeot, Fiat and General Motors -- lost a combined 5 billion euros (about $7 billion) in 2012. Their global operations have been subsidizing the European losses.

Marchionne said that if demand doesn't return and carmakers don't do more to reduce unused factory capacity, which hurts margins, "there will be structural failure."

He put the chances at "less than 50%," saying he expects there would be government intervention before any player is allowed to fail, but the fact that it was on the lips of European auto executives means the industry is not out of the woods yet.

Ghosn, who also runs Renault's joint venture with Nissan, agrees that European governments won't allow failures of car companies, important employers and economic mainstays. "I don't see a collapse of a car manufacturer, but I see probably more government intervention to prevent employment tragedies," he said.

Hanley reports for's Kicking Tires. Contributing: The Associated Press

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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