Firms gear up for Paris Motor Show

The Paris Motor Show opens later this week, with the world's car makers hoping to combat the gloomy economic situation by showcasing their smaller, more environmentally friendly ranges.

The show opens on Saturday, with a range of small, hybrid and fuel-efficient cars on display including Citroen's C3 Picasso, Ford's Ka and Hyundai's i20 subcompact.

Renault and Volkswagen will also be introducing revamped versions of two of Europe's top-selling cars - the Megane and the Golf - with lower emissions and greener engines.

The Megane, which is hoped will make up for poor sales of the Laguna, will be under particular scrutiny as the show's national champion. Nomura analyst Michael Tyndall commented: "All eyes will be watching to see whether or not this car impresses.

"It's doubly important because the Laguna has turned out to be not quite the success (Renault) had hoped."

Other cars vying for the crowd's attention will be a concept model of Honda's Insight - a hybrid-only vehicle planned for the European, Japanese and North American markets early next year - and Peugeot's Prologue concept car, which is capable of running solely on electric power for short distances.

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