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Small-car spotlight

Detroit automakers to unveil vehicles and concepts coming soon to American dealers



General Motors will unveil a midsize concept vehicle boasting the Chevrolet Volt's innovative electric powertrain and Ford will reveal two additions to its worldwide family of Focus-based compact cars when the European auto show season kicks off in Geneva, Switzerland, today.

Chrysler will share a stand with Lancia as Italy's Fiat begins the process of blending the brands' model lines into a single global family of upscale vehicles.

All three Detroit automakers plan to unveil vehicles and technology destined for U.S. production and sale as the links between the European and American auto industries grow ever tighter.

While U.S. vehicle sales have begun to improve after a disastrous 2009, Europe is braced for another big decline this year. Automakers are to highlight small vehicles and fuel-saving hybrids at the auto show.

Ford's Focus-based Grand C-Max seven-seat compact minivan is destined for U.S. sale in 2011. A station wagon version of Ford's new Focus is also to debut.

GM's Opel unit, which develops compact and midsize cars for the automaker's U.S. brands, has a new version of its Meriva small minivan that hints at a future compact GMC crossover.

The Meriva features rear-hinged so-called suicide doors that create a wide opening for easy access and seating for five. It is to reach European dealerships in June. The previous generation of the Meriva racked up just more than a million sales since 2003.

Opel's sleek Flextreme GT/E extended-range electric concept car previews the looks for a rakish Toyota Camry-size sedan powered by the same system as the upcoming Chevrolet Volt. The Flextreme's styling may be indicative of future Buick models.

In addition to Chrysler and Lancia's cohabitation, Fiat's sporty Alfa Romeo brand will display its new Giulietta model. The Giulietta's platform and drivetrains are to form the basis of upcoming Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models destined for North American production.

Mini's first SUV debuts at the show.

The Mini Countryman combines the brand's iconic big-city looks with the outdoorsy appeal of greater height and optional all-wheel drive. The Countryman is set to go on sale in America in 2011. It will be available with a 120-horsepower or 180-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine.

Audi will reveal its A1 subcompact. At 155.5 inches long, the A1 is nearly the same size as a Mini Cooper. Audi will not offer its usual all-wheel drive in the front-drive A1. The A1 may not be sold in America.

Volvo's S60 midsize sport sedan features a lovely sculpted shape and a laundry list of safety features that includes pedestrian-sensing automatic brakes. The top S60 will feature a 300-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six engine, six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The S60 should reach U.S. dealerships late this year.

Mercedes-Benz is expected to disclose an elegant new design direction with its F800 Style concept. The concept's bold grille borrows from the styling of Mercedes' SLS AMG supercar, while its flowing lines and arched roof hint at the looks of the CLS luxury sedan to debut later this year.

The F800 Style concept reportedly uses a platform developed for the next generation of Mercedes' C-class sedan. The concept's rear doors slide open like the world's coolest and fastest minivan.



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