Motor Show 1993: Small cars are rapidly becoming big business: Efficient production boosts choice, writes Martin Derrick

THE CURRENT European Car of the Year is the British-built Nissan Micra, and the runner-up for the prestigious 1993 Award was the Fiat Cinquecento; this month the 40 jurors are submitting their votes for the 1994 Car of the Year - and the Fiat Punto and the Vauxhall Corsa are two of the leading contenders.

Perhaps never before have small car buyers had it so good. As well as these brand-new offerings, they might also consider the Ford Fiesta and Rover Metro, the Citroen AX, Peugeot 106 and Renault Clio from France, the VW Polo from Germany, Seat Ibiza from Spain, and several offerings from Japan of which the recently improved and facelifted Daihatsu Charade is probably the leading contender.

Small cars are rapidly becoming big business. The difficulty the manufacturers have to overcome is that in general, smaller cars do not cost much less to manufacture, distribute and market than larger cars; margins, therefore, are inevitably tight.

That is why the Japanese, while restricted in volume in the UK market, chose not to import the micro cars that have been built in Japan for decades in order to get round that country's bizarre taxation and car parking regulations. Why bring in small cars and make small profits when you can import larger cars and make larger profits?

European companies are having to find ways to design and build small cars profitably. So, for example, Fiat's response to the challenges of the 1990s is to spend no less than dollars 38bn in an investment programme to bring 18 new models to the marketplace and renew almost all its factories.

Already one of the world leaders in factory automation, Fiat's emphasis for the 1990s goes beyond the installation of yet more robots. 'Striving for top levels of efficiency in our factories and the use of automation are important, but not enough,' says Fiat Auto's managing director, Paolo Cantarella.

Organisational structures also had to be revised and responsibility had to be delegated downwards so quality levels could be improved and production costs lowered through the introduction of true simultaneous engineering.

The Fiat Punto, being shown in Britain for the first time at the London Motor Show, is critically important, says Mr Cantarella. Not only is it replacing the bestselling Uno, but it is also the first Fiat model derived from this new technological and production thinking.

What the Punto shows is that the combination of simultaneous engineering and highly efficient manufacturing not only permit manufacturers to build small cars profitably, but also to offer far greater choice of models to their customers.

A similar situation can be seen at Vauxhall/Opel, where less than a year after the initial launch of the three and five-door Corsa, the company is already able to offer both automatic transmission and new diesel derivatives. At the Frankfurt Motor Show, no less than three Corsa-based prototypes were displayed: the Tigra coupe, the Roadster two-seats sports model, and the Scamp recreational vehicle. All can be put into production very quickly if public reaction is favourable.

Largely due to the Corsa's runaway success, Vauxhall is now nipping at the heels of Ford, the market leader, and looks likely to overtake its arch rival.

But despite the state-of-the-art technical specification of models such as the Micra, Cinquecento, Punto and Corsa, despite their modern style and brilliantly packaged interiors, despite their sparkling performance, their greatly improved safety attributes, their low fuel consumption, recyclability, and low emissions, there are still those who love the old classics - and thus the evergreen Mini is still finding buyers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
'Prison Architect' players decide the fate of inmates
tech
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor