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Tough times, new rules mean auto market’s changing

Hybrids and electrics like the Volvo AB C30 Drive (above) and Toyota Prius will figure prominently in the Paris Auto Show. Hybrids and electrics like the Volvo AB C30 Drive (above) and Toyota Prius will figure prominently in the Paris Auto Show. (Photos By Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News)
By Greg Keller
Associated Press / September 30, 2010

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PARIS — European car makers are looking to a bevy of fuel-efficient, lower-emissions models going on display at the Paris Auto Show this week to weather a depressed market and tough new European Union pollution standards.

Though the worst of the global recession is past, car makers know their market has changed. Consumers remain cautious, and environmental rules are more stringent. The industry hopes hybrids and electrics will be a big part of the way forward.

The spotlight will be on hometown favorites Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen, which will unveil hybrid and electric cars or light trucks to the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to attend the show between Saturday and Oct. 17.

Among the most anticipated unveilings will be Peugeot’s 3008 HYbrid 4, the first full diesel hybrid vehicle, and Renault’s Fluence Z.E. (for “zero emissions’’), an all-electric midsize sedan.

European car makers are under fierce pressure to sell smaller and less-polluting cars and light trucks to meet tightening European regulations on carbon dioxide emissions.

Ford Motor Co.’s chief executive, Alan Mulally, kicked things off early, unveiling the new Ford Focus ST, one of three new Focuses the US manufacturer has developed for worldwide sales. Ford expects to make 2 million Focus-based vehicles per year worldwide by 2012.

Ford’s EcoBoost direct-injection turbocharged engines mean the new Focus can achieve 20 to 25 percent better fuel efficiency than previous versions, the firm said.

At the other end of the carbon-emitting spectrum, Volkswagen also gave a sneak peak of some exotic brands such as Lamborghini, Bugatti, and Bentley. The Bugatti Veyron Supersport can reach a top speed of 264 miles per hour.

The show dates back to 1898, making it the world’s oldest.