Fiat's launch of its new flagship model, the Croma, was partly overshadowed by Italian design legend Giorgetto Giugiaro.
At Fiat's stand, many show visitors were unimpressed by the bland-looking production Croma that marks Fiat's return to the upper-medium segment.
Over at the Italdesign Giugiaro stand, the Italian design house exhibited an upscale interpretation of the Croma that many visitors thought it looked much better than the production model.
Giugiaro designed the first-generation Croma, which achieved sales of about 450,000 units during its lifespan from 1985 to 1994.
He also designed the new production model on Fiat's stand, but observers pointed out that Giugiaro's 8ttoV Croma concept was the car he would have designed for production if Fiat had not asked him to make compromises.
Giugiaro made the Croma more luxurious inside for his concept. He added a stylish leather trim and replaced the back seat bench with two individual airline-style business class seats with working tables.
"The interior space available in the new Croma is unique in its class and was crying out to be exalted," Giugiaro said in an interview.
He said the 8ttoV was done in homage to former Fiat group Chairman Gianni Agnelli, who died January 24, 2003.
Giugiaro believes the 8ttoV is the Croma that Agnelli would have had Fiat build. Agnelli deeply appreciated cars that offered plenty of legroom and extras that improved passenger comfort.
He loved the first-generation Croma and drove a version equipped with an Alfa Romeo V-6 engine and a custom-made leather interior.
The new Croma's market launch originally was planned for 2003.
But it was delayed for two years because Giancarlo Boschetti, who became Fiat Auto CEO in January 2002, didn't like the car's Pininfarina-penned styling.
He felt that made the Croma look like a station wagon.
Fiat aims to sell 60,000 units a year of the Croma even though rivals' top-of-the-line models such as the Vel Satis and Opel Signum are selling poorly.
Renault, which originally aimed to sell 50,000 Vel Satis models a year, sold 7,869 units last year. Opel's aim for the Signum was 80,000 units a year, but it sold just 23,836 Signums in 2004.
Giugiaro saw three of his designs debut at the show: Alfa Romeo's new Brera coupe, Alfa's 159 sedan and the Croma production model.