Mar. 06 - The international car show opens in Geneva with Europe's car industry adopting a ''small is beautiful'' approach at a time of austerity. Japanese carmaker Nissan announces plans to invest $200 million in a new compact vehicle, creating thousands of jobs in northeast England. Hayley Platt reports.
A small car from an industry giant. Mercedes was first to unveil with a sportier revamp of the A-Class - one of a number of models by car makers in the new compact segment. The German carmaker hopes it will appeal to the cost-conscious driver looking to downsize, while still enjoying the status and quality of a premium brand. Dieter Zetcher is Head of Mercedes-Benz. SOUNDBITE: Dieter Zetcher, Chief Executive Officer Daimler, "It will especially resonate with younger buyers, young at heart or young by birth and we are sure that we will extend our reach with this new customer segment." Japanese carmaker Nissan announced plans to invest $200 million to build a new compact car called the Invitation - reaffirming its commitment to European manufacturing. The British government - keen to safeguard jobs - is loaning Nissan $15 million to help get production rolling. Andy Palmer is Nissan's Executive Vice President. SOUNDBITE: Andy Palmer, Executive Vice President, Nissan, saying (English): "We'll be manufacturing this car in the UK in 2013 creating an additional 400 jobs in our Sunderland factory and around 1600 additional jobs in the supply chain. So it's a really important car and will compete in the middle of the compact B-segment so a competitor to the likes of the Ford Fiesta for example." PTC "There are plenty of cars on show but with Europe's economy still so fragile, drivers may need convincing before they spend." German carmakers were in confident mood. Volkswagen said it expected strong demand from China to continue where it's Audi brand is already the market leader. At the beginning of the year it sold more than 200,000 vehicles to the Chinese - a company record. And analysts agree there's still plenty more business to be done in China. Christoph Stuermer is from IHS Automotive. SOUNDBITE: Christoph Stuermer, Director of Research, IHS Automotive, saying (English): "We're getting the first generation of repeat buyers so you know more who they are. They are more vehicle savvy so in a way it is easier to sell quality products to them then it is naive first time buyers." General Motors celebrated its 150th anniversary at the show by winning the European Car of the Year award. Its Chevrolet Volt plug won over the experts with its low-emission technology. But there were unanswered questions over the the alliance with French firm PSA Peugeot Citroen. Last month the French car maker and GM's European Opel-Vauxhall division announced plans to develop cars together - as both are struggling with slow sales and overcapacity in Europe. General Motors vice chairman Steven Girsky said the alliance is just one part of GM's plan to fix its loss-making Opel unit. But he wouldn't say what would come next in the plan. Hayley Platt, Reuters