The 2012 Paris Motor Show kicked off on Thursday at the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Hall with more than 100 car models including 33 new releases.
Some 253 carmakers and automotive parts companies from 20 countries are taking part in the motor show, which is expected to draw 1.2 million visitors.
The Paris Motor Show is held every other year alternating with the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany. This year is France's turn, but French automakers are busy downsizing due to the eurozone fiscal crisis and unable to put on a grand show on their home turf, while German carmakers are on a roll.
Volkswagen unveiled a plan to almost double sales in France to 800,000 units by 2018, overtaking Peugeot and Citroen. It also said it will open a huge showroom in the Champs Elysees just across the street from the Renault dealership. The new VW Golf hatchback and Audi's latest A3 models drew a lot of attention at the motor show.
BMW featured its Active Tourer concept car, while Mercedes Benz unveiled its battery-powered B-Class Electric Drive that will go on sale in 2014.
French carmakers mostly showcased face-lifted versions of existing models, with Renault the only one to unveil new models -- the compact Clio and low-end Dacia Logan.
Peugeot introduced the high-performance GTi version of its compact 208, while Citroen showcased the convertible version of the compact DS3 cabriolet.
Peugeot-Citroen saw sales in Europe fall 14 percent from January to August of this year, while Renault's sales dropped 16 percent. Peugeot-Citroen posted losses of W1.2 trillion (US$1=W1,117) in the first half of this year alone and began laying off 10 percent of its workforce or 10,000 workers.
There were several small SUVs, including GM's Chevrolet Trax, to meet rising demand among Europeans for a single car they can drive to work as well as off-road at weekends in tough economic times. The Trax SUVs manufactured at GM's plant in Korea will be exported to Europe. They will be available in Korea next year.
Hyundai Motor unveiled a three-door version of the i30 compact for European tastes. Affiliate Kia Motors featured a three-door version of the compact C'eed, as well as a follow-up model to the popular Carens minivan. Ssangyong will unveil the Rexton W SUV in Europe.