2008 Paris Motor Show: Press days kick off today

We’ve already seen a couple of Paris Motor Show debuts – but our friends at ForbesAutos.com have compiled a complete list of what Paris has in store for us. Make sure you keep checking out our 2008 Paris Motor Show tag for up-to-date info from the show.

A future full of hybrids, electric vehicles and small cars may be closer than you think, judging from a spate of new vehicles set to be unveiled at next week’s Paris Motor Show.

At least nine new models that will debut at the event, open to the public Oct. 4 through 19, are small or downright tiny by American standards. Among them will be the Toyota iQ, which at about 9 feet, 9.5 inches long, will be the smallest four-seat car available when it goes on sale in Europe and Japan this winter.

Even popular crossover utility vehicles “” amalgamations of wagons and SUVs “” are shrinking. BMW will show off its smallest yet, the X1, and Mini will unveil a crossover concept that’s small by other automakers’ standards but bigger than any previous Mini.

“We’re just seeing now the real emergence of small high-end crossovers,” says Tom Libby, J.D. Power and Associates’ senior director of industry analysis. There are only four sold in the United States: the Acura RDX, BMW X3, Infiniti EX35 and Land Rover LR2, with two more “” the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 “” coming soon. “Other automakers will be going there, and it makes sense: It’s a fertile area; there’s room for growth. They’re more fuel-efficient.”

As manufacturers downsize their vehicles, they’re also looking to install smaller, more-efficient propulsion systems, many of which will run on electricity rather than gasoline, at least part of the time.

“The Paris Motor Show will reflect the time we are in,” says Nigel Griffiths, an analyst with Global Insight. “It will preview what automakers will be doing to reduce running costs and be more efficient with resources.”

The most highly anticipated new green car to debut in Paris is the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. “The important thing about the Chevy Volt is whether it is a stepping-stone to the future,” says industry analyst Mark Warnsman at Calyon Securities.

He says Toyota has been trying to change the perception of its Prius hybrid from what he calls a glorified marketing tool to something that is widely adopted. “A real plug-in hybrid like the Volt could be the next step. It’s not a revolution yet, but it could help.” (Read more about the Chevrolet Volt here.)

Of all the hybrids currently on sale, Toyota’s Prius is the most successful by a wide margin. Honda hopes to steal some of that business with a new hybrid of its own, called the Insight, that will debut as a concept car at the Paris Motor Show. Like the Prius, it will be a four-door hatchback.

Meanwhile, Korean automaker Hyundai will use Paris as a platform to unveil its first hybrid, a version of the Santa Fe SUV. (To see pictures of the vehicles that are expected to debut at the Paris Motor Show, go to the accompanying slideshow.)

In Pictures: New Cars to Debut in Paris

Green Luxury

Even German luxury brands that pooh-poohed hybrids several years ago are joining the effort. When BMW takes the wraps off an all-new version of its largest sedan, the 7 Series, it will also show a pre-production hybrid version. And that could be a good move image-wise, because sales of large premium sedans like the 7 Series are down 36 percent, more than three times the downturn in the luxury segment overall, which declined 11.6 percent.

“That is a crucial segment from an image standpoint for luxury brands,” says J.D. Power’s Libby, regarding large premium sedans. “Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Jaguar are perceived as true luxury brands because they have a line of high-end products.”

He and other sources expect luxury automakers’ Paris announcements to play up incremental gains in fuel efficiency through ultra-advanced technology as they bear out what could be a long-term economic slide featuring $4-a-gallon gas. Specific examples from BMW’s 7 Series include an “intelligent” alternator, which reduces drag on the engine, exterior cooling vents that cut wind resistance by shutting when not needed, and an auto-off function for the engine that turns it off during temporary stops.

“BMW is in a good position with its competence in fuel efficiencies,” says Paris-based industry analyst Georges Dieng at Natixis. “But the entire upper segment is under pressure.”

Preening at the High End

Despite the sober focus on fuel efficiency, there will be plenty of whimsy and testosterone under the tents of the Paris Motor Show. Lotus will be there with its new Evora, which takes on the Porsche 911. A spokesman says it’s “something exciting and light. Something new.”

Upper-crust Bentley will be there with its 150-run, handcrafted 10-year anniversary edition of its Arnage, called the Arnage Final Series, that will mark the end of the current line of traditional Bentley sedans.

Lamborghini will be there with a new vehicle that they’re keeping the world in suspense over by releasing only a trio of tightly cropped images of it.

Here”s a list of expected debuts at the 2008 Paris Motor Show:

Production Cars:

Audi RS 6
Bentley Arnage Final Series
BMW 7 Series
Brilliance BS4
Brilliance BS6
Chevrolet Cruze
Chevrolet Volt
Citroen C3 Picasso
Ferrari California
Ford Fiesta Econetic
Ford Focus RS
Ford Ka
Hyundai i20
Hyundai iX55
Hyundai Santa Fe hybrid
Kia Soul
Lamborghini sports car of some sort
Lexus IS sedan and convertible
Lotus Evora
Mazda MX-5
Nissan Pixo
Nissan Note
Opel Insignia
Renault Megane
Suzuki Alto
Toyota Avensis
Toyota iQ
Toyota Urban Cruiser
Volkswagen Golf


Concept Cars:

Audi A1 Sportback
BMW Concept X1
Brilliance BC3
Brilliance BS2
Chevrolet Orlando
Citroen Hypnos
Honda Insight
Lexus LF-Xh
Mazda Kiyora
Mercedes-Benz Fascination
Mini Crossman concept
Nissan Nuvu
Opel EcoFlex Sports Tourer
Peugeot Prologue
Renault Ondelious
SsangYong C200
Suzuki SX4-FCV