Currently second only to Daimler's "SmartCar," the Ligier line of X-Too mini-vehicles stands poised to dominate the Continental mini-car market, and forecasters predict Ligier cars have the power to create a major sensation in North America. Given a big financial and technological boost in 2008, the bold venture into the mini-car business marks Ligier cars' third incarnation as a forward-thinking French auto manufacturer.
The early lives of Ligier cars
First, Ligier produced some of the finest Formula One racing cars ever to compete on the circuit. Founded by Guy Ligier, an accomplished Formula One driver and celebrated rugby player, Ligier cars consistently contended for the championships from 1976 to 1996. In 1977, a Ligier racer won the Grand Prix-still one of the greatest French victories in Formula One History.
While building the brand on the racing circuit, Ligier cars entered the European consumer market with the JS2, an impressive mid-engine sports car powered by a blow-you-back-in-the-seat Maserati engine. One of the few mid-engine sports cars outfitted with a V6 engine, auto enthusiasts considered the Ligier JS2 a technological masterpiece. Built for performance rather than economy, the Ligier JS2 fell victim to the severe energy crisis of the early 1970's. One later model, the JS11, surpassed the JS2's technological wizardry but could not compete against Ferrari-neither on the track nor on the market.
Ligier cars reincarnated
In 2008, marking a radical departure from its history and legend, Ligier acquired "Microcar," a pocket-sized Euro-friendly family of tiny cars and trucks. Son of the founder, Phillipe Ligier serves as the company's Chief Executive Officer, promising to restore Ligier cars' reputation for state-of-the-art technology and breath-taking innovation.
Ligier's X-Too family includes open-air roadsters reminiscent of the company's glory days on the racing circuit, and it features small commercial vehicles ideally suited to super-economical use in major urban areas worldwide. Anchoring the X-Too line, the two-passenger Ligier Ambra become the green vehicle of-choice for young Parisian professionals and other environmentally conscious French consumers. Ambra also has become something of a green fashion statement in London.
Powered by a 505cc gasoline engine, Ambra will chug along at 65mph, delivering 65mpg regardless of driving conditions. In defiance of JS2's amazing power-to-weight ratio, which delivered remarkable acceleration, Ambra weighs a little too much for its microscopic power plant, going from zero to sixty in eighteen seconds...approximately half an eternity. Ambra has no gearbox, running instead on a constant velocity transmission for more steady power and better performance in heavy city traffic. Ambra does allow plenty of elbow room, and it offers ample behind-the-seats storage for the standard collection of everyday paraphernalia.
Little Ligier cars have potential to sell big.
Watching SmartCar's slow but steady progress in the United States and Canada, many auto market analysts emphasize Ligier's tremendous potential for record-breaking sales in North America. As more demanding fuel-economy standards take effect in the United States, the American appetite for mini-cars grows. Because of its distinctive styling, extremely precise handling, and unrivalled mileage statistics, the Ligier X-Too ought to catch the eyes of space-crunched New Yorkers, money-crunched Chicagoans, and smog-tortured Los Angelinos.