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The sixth-generation Chevrolet Corvette convertible debuted in Geneva, with the model's first power top since 1962.

Meanwhile, Volvo made history in Geneva by unveiling the first concept car designed totally by women. Called the YCC—for Your Car Concept—it isn't a minivan and doesn't have a child seat in it.

Instead, it includes new features, such as Easy-Clean paint with properties akin to a nonstick frying pan to repel dirt, door sills that rotate downward when doors open so legs don't brush against them, a sensor that tells in advance if a parallel parking space is big enough for the car, an Autopark system that handles the steering to get the car into the space, and interchangeable, contoured front seat covers and floor mats that change the interior look.

Women "want everything male car buyers want and a lot more," said Hans-Olov Olsson, president and chief executive officer of Volvo Cars.

2004 Geneva Photo Gallery

Elsewhere at the show, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Bentley presented new luxury models that are due in the States, and DaimlerChrysler displayed products and discussed the U.S. introduction of its smart brand, which should occur in 2006 according to company officials. Many new vehicles at the show sported novel interior touches. Would you believe interior trim that's asymmetrical? It exists—on a new Nissan concept.

Streaming Video: smart micro cars bound for U.S.

Here are the details:

Convertibles Aplenty
It was the perfect Swiss scene: a full-grown St. Bernard in the back seat of a car. Only this St. Bernard was in a MINI, and this MINI was a convertible.

Debuting its first convertible on the current-generation car, MINI took top-dog honors in Geneva. The new model, expected in U.S. showrooms in late summer, is the same size as the current four-passenger MINI. The ragtop's automatic fabric drop top also has a sliding roof feature at the front that allows a sunroof driving style.

There's no tonneau cover, because the top folds compactly behind the rear seats, officials said. The rear of the car has been redone so there's a tailgate, in effect, when the trunk is open. Rear seats split and fold down, allowing for a sizable pass-through into the car, even with the top down. Yes, the rear window is glass.

Chevrolet for the first time showed the convertible version of its sixth-generation Corvette. Due in showrooms late this year, this is the first Corvette with a power top since 1962. There are five layers of fabric, and a top-down time of 18 seconds.

Of course this may seem like an eternity when compared with the approximately 4 seconds it takes for the car to go from 0 to 60 miles an hour. What do you expect from a 400-horsepower two-seater that's faster than any production Vette in history?

Chrysler showed the SRT version of its convertible Crossfire two-seater. This new Crossfire roadster, and its coupe sibling, become the first in the Chrysler brand to get the "Street and Racing Technology" label that has, up to this point, only been on Dodges.

As expected, the Crossfire SRT-6 cars have something special under the hood: A 330-horsepower 3.2-liter supercharged V6. This compares with the non-supercharged 3.2-liter V6 capable of 215 horses that's in the base Crossfire.

New SLK and Lamborghini
Mercedes-Benz drove out its new-generation SLK that arrives in showrooms this year.

The two-seat car that made news with its retractable hardtop in the 1990s has a new 272-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and, for the first time, a V8. It's an AMG V8 with 5.5-liter displacement, and it's capable of 360 horses.

Leave it to Mercedes to add a few new features to make open-air driving more fun. The optional Airscarf provides neck-level heating and wards off drafts of nasty, cold air. A new seven-speed automatic transmission provides powerful acceleration in the new SLK AMG.

The most dramatic unveiling was Lamborghini's Murcielago Roadster. As two heavy walls parted at the Lamborghini display, the two-seater was exposed—hanging vertically inside what looked like a vault.

The United States will be the first to get this special convertible, whose 6.2-liter 580-horsepower V12 makes it the "fastest series production roadster in the world," Lamborghini promises. The on-sale date is sometime in the second half of this year.

Concept Convertibles
Two other convertibles were shown publicly for the first time in Geneva. Both were concept cars.

Rolls-Royce created an "experimental" convertible to explore future design and put the company's old "EX" label on it. Rolls hasn't had an EX since the 45 EX in 1958.

The new 100EX—"100" marks the brand's 100th anniversary this year—is thoroughly modern and, well, nautical. The large two-door evokes a nautical theme with bleached teak decking on the rear deck. Doors have rear hinges in the style of many pre-war touring cars, and the hood is all brushed aluminum, contrasting with dark gray paint. Under this hood is a naturally aspirated 9.0-liter V16.

The Volkswagen display attracted the largest group of onlookers. Tucked at the back of the VW stand was the Concept C convertible. The automaker didn't hold a press conference, but that didn't stop the crowds from coming.

A midsize four-passenger two-door, the Concept C has a novel sunroof integrated into the power hardtop. This sunroof makes for some unusual shuffling of roof pieces when the top goes up or down. It's something to behold.

Volvo and Women
Declaring "we're part of an auto industry dominated by men but wanting to attract a growing group of women car buyers," officials at Volvo Cars unveiled the industry's first concept car created by women.

The sleek YCC features two gullwing doors and innovations that its female designers and project managers said appeal to women, as well as to men.

While the YCC is a concept only, some YCC features, such as Ergovision that uses a body scan to set a person's proper driving position, will find their way into future Volvo vehicles, officials said.

Having a team of women making the decisions on a concept car had never been done before in the industry, as far as Volvo officials are aware. There have been cars over the years that were designed by men as women's cars. These include La Femme in the 1950s and a Mazda show car sedan with customized interior in the past decade.

Volvo's team of three female chief designers and five female project managers for the YCC was new. The women insisted that despite its origins, the YCC isn't a woman's concept car. "This is your concept car," exterior designer Anna Rosen told the majority-male news media.

Some of the YCC features, however, seem to feed stereotypes about women. For example, the YCC hood doesn't open readily. A low, one-piece design that's uninterrupted by body gaps, this hood is intended to be opened only by a trained technician at a dealership.

Some instruments inside the car that could provide telltale operating information for the driver are "simplified," according to Rosen. The car has a diagnostic and communication system that allows it to link with a dealership when necessary and book its own service appointment.

Luxury Introductions
Mercedes showed its freshened C-Class and added to the line with its first V8-powered C-Class, the new C55 AMG. The AMG model, with 5.5-liter V8, is capable of 367 horsepower. Its hood, grille, headlamps and rear end all possess distinctive styling.

Mercedes also previewed its new CLS-Class. Built on the E-Class platform, this new model has stylish coupe looks but four doors. It will be available with six and eight-cylinder engines. A more scratch-resistant clearcoat paint is on every CLS body. Inside, four-zone automatic climate control is a standard feature.

Audi took the wraps off its new-generation A6, which features a new, more prominent grille and improved body rigidity. This is the first Audi to offer optional adaptive headlights that can help drivers see around curves and corners. New V6 and V8 engines bring more power.

BMW showed its new, third-generation 5-Series wagon. With choice of six- and eight-cylinder engines, the new wagon has more cargo room than its predecessor, adds BMW's active steering system and updates with the iDrive control system. For the first time, the 5-Series wagon includes a remote-open feature on the rear liftgate.

Bentley displayed its 2005 Arnage, which has exterior styling more akin to that of the Continental GT. The Arnage's interior also has been updated.

Interior Designs
New interiors drew attention in Geneva.

The red fabric trim in Nissan's Qashqai concept crossover vehicle has some sort of graffiti pattern on it. It isn't an accident. Designers wanted this look as a reflection of the London street scenes they pass each day on their way to work at Nissan's design center in London. As far as they know, no other automaker has tried to incorporate graffiti in a vehicle before.

Also intriguing in the Qashqai is where this fabric trim is—and isn't—located. It runs along the middle and right side of the dashboard and the right-side doors. But it's nowhere to be seen on the left side of the vehicle. This, too, was purposeful—an effort at asymmetrical design.

The women designers at Volvo have some unusual interior touches, too. Front seats are a streamlined, Scandinavian style and can look luxurious when fitted with oh-so-soft contoured leather "pads" and matched with upscale wool floor mats. Or the car's environment can be more casual with fabric seat pads with flowers and wildly designed floor mats that the women playfully called "carrot field" because the long, stringy threads resemble the green tops of carrot plants.

Opel's Trixx concept vehicle can really make someone feel like a "third wheel." Literally, the third-row seat in the back, meant only for sometime use in this small vehicle, must be inflated.

Toyota’s Hybrid GT and Radical Racer
Toyota worked in conjunction with Giorgetto Giugiaro’s famed Ital Design studio to create the Alessandro Volta concept car, named to honor the great Italian scientist and pioneer of electric power. This sleek, exotic-looking coupe has a carbon fiber chassis and body panels.

The Volta also contains a souped-up version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy system, combining a 3.3-liter V6 engine and two electric motors for a total output of 408 horsepower. The same basic elements will power the 2005 Lexus RX 400h hybrid luxury sport utility.

Finally, the Formula-like, open-wheel Motor Triathlon Race Car was conceived and built by Toyota's European design studio. Its designers call it "a radical zero-emission concept performance car." The MTRC has four-wheel drive and is powered by a fuel cell.

Streaming Video: Toyota's Futuristic MTRC

Ann Job is a writer for T&A Ink.

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