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FRANKFURT, Germany — Craving technology and performance in a vehicle?

With more than 125 world premieres and 1,000 exhibitors, the Frankfurt Auto Show gives the public a chance to see what automakers have in store for the future, whether drivers want to lounge in their cars or venture off-road. The show, held at the Frankfurt fairgrounds Messe in German], opened to the public on Saturday and ends Sept. 21.

Stefan Jacoby, president and chief executive officer of Mitsubishi Motors Europe, said the car manufacturer will announce 14 new cars in the next five years.

The Frankfurt show provided the auto maker the opportunity to unveil its newest concept car, the i. The i’s bubblelike shape, clear plastic seats and ultramodern, simplistic dashboard, give the car a fun, futuristic look.

The subcompact is the first car to earn five stars in both categories of the ADAC-FIA-EcoTest. ADAC is the German automobile club, similar to the AAA in the States.

In fuel efficiency, the i was rated at 3.8 liters per 100 kilometers, roughly a gallon for every 60 miles.

The i will be released to the Japanese market in 2005 and might later be developed for other markets.

DaimlerChrysler conducted random interviews on the streets of Rome, London and Frankfurt, asking people what they think of American-made automobiles and their personal car criteria. The responses were taped and aired at the show.

“When we ask Europeans about cars, they are not shy with their responses,” said Dieter Zetsche, president and CEO of the DaimlerChrysler group.

The responses will be used to assess the company’s product lines, which include Chrysler, smart and the reintroduced Maybach brand.

The numbers, too, speak for themselves about what car buyers are looking for. Chrysler minivans, celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, continue to be Chrysler’s best seller, with 10 million vans in 70 countries sold every year, the automaker said.

Looking to the future, Zetsche unveiled the 300C concept sedan, featuring a hemi engine and cranking out 300 horsepower. The manufacturer also premiered the Crossfire coupe, which combines American design and European technology.

Plans were also announced to introduce a diesel Jeep model next year in the United States.

DaimlerChrysler said it will introduce a total of four new products plus two high-performance versions of existing models in 2004.

German fans of the Dodge Viper will be pleased to know that the high-performance sports car will be sold in limited quantities in Germany beginning next year.

The smart car folks are using the auto show to announce that they are expanding their horizons with a new model. The diminutive smart car, which falls under the DaimlerChrysler umbrella, premiered its smart forfour, the first smart car built with four doors and the ability to seat four people.

The smart brand debuted in 1998 and emphasizes the environment, energy efficiency and the preservation of natural resources.

Appealing to buyers who desire efficiency and comfort, the forfour also has a “lounge” feature, in which the front driver and passenger’s seats can be turned around to face the back seat or fold down for a little roadside relaxation.

For safety-conscious drivers, smart also has a special frame known as the tridion safety cell. The auto maker said the rigid and bend-resistant steel housing offers maximum safety in collisions and buffers the car on uneven road surfaces.

BMW also has an answer to maneuvering uneven roads and road hazards. The X3 sport utility vehicle is making its world debut, and the 2004 X5 model is also on display. Both SUVs feature the new xDrive all-wheel- drive system, which allows adjustable and variable distribution of torque from the front wheels to the rear and vice versa.

“If the front wheels come into snow or ice, then [the power] goes to the rear,” said Christine Schmitt, a BMW hostess.

XDrive’s reaction time takes less than one second and prevents the driver from under- steering or over-steering during hazardous road conditions.


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