GM to beef up Saturn, expand Hummer lineup

When General Motors introduced Robert Lutz as its product chief on Aug. 2, Lutz took a modest approach to what he might do to future-product plans.

Launch list

GM's major introductions in the coming year

  • Saturn gets first sport wagon when the Vue debuts late this year.

  • Chevrolet melds a pickup and a roadster in the SSR, out this fall.

  • Cadillac's Catera replacement, the CTS sport sedan, debuts early next year.

  • Pontiac launches entry-level sport wagon, the Vibe, in early 2002.

  • GM bulks up Hummer with the H2 sport-utility next summer.

  • Saturn brings the Delta global small-car platform to North America with a 2003 model year replacement for the S series.

    Our look at future products

    What do the styling terms mean?

  • "Before I've had a look, it's just impossible to say," GM's vice chairman for product development said, deferring specific comment.

    Few observers expect Lutz to be as reticent when he takes his post Sept. 1. He lost little time in voicing his opinion about industry design trends, saying that "all of the jagged, Blade Runner, origami stuff has just blended together into a multi-brand mush in my mind."

    But Lutz-inspired vehicles are unlikely to appear before the 2004 model year. Meanwhile, GM is trying to fill product gaps, shake its reputation for blandness — and pay for it all.

    The automaker wants to expand the Hummer lineup, end Buick and Saturn dealers' drought of new models, replace Chevrolet's aging Cavalier, take Pontiac in a new entry-level direction and begin Cadillac's high-profile transformation.

    Vehicle programs cut

    But GM has cut or delayed vehicle programs in the past several months. CEO Rick Wagoner said the changes represent the give-and-take of portfolio planning — intensified by worries about a recession. And current product chief Tom Davis has said some programs have been accelerated.

    "This traditionally happens when we get to tougher times," Wagoner said. "Our eyes are always bigger than our stomachs."

    The churn included plans for the new Delta Township plant near Lansing, Mich., expected to be one of the assembly sites for the new Epsilon mid-sized car platform. Industry sources said GM is switching the plant to its front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive Lambda platform, the architecture for car-like minivans, sport wagons and possibly a pickup.

    But that platform has been delayed, as GM ponders whether to add the next-generation Buick Rendezvous and Pontiac Aztek to it, according to supplier sources.

    Meanwhile, the Epsilon platform launch has slowed, delaying versions of the Pontiac Grand Am and Chevrolet Malibu. The Pontiac Banner and Buick Signia — near-luxury sport wagons planned for the 2005 model year on an expanded Epsilon platform — were killed.

    Making alliances work

    GM's alliances with Fiat Auto S.p.A., Isuzu Motors Ltd., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., as well as its wholly owned Saab Automobile AB and Adam Opel AG units, are increasingly important in product planning. For example, the Chevrolet Borrego concept uses the Subaru Legacy platform and awd powertrain, and the Olds 04 concept was built on the fwd Opel Astra platform.

    But the alliances often leave GM with too many options. The Opel-created Delta small-car platform was in doubt for North America, as GM reportedly weighed switching some vehicles to the platform slated for Fiat's Stilo, a small car debuting in Europe this year. Now the Delta platform also will be used for a Chevrolet vehicle.

    Even so, GM has a full slate of near-term lineup changes to execute as it wrestles with long-term plans.

  • BUICK

    Bengal

    This stylish convertible concept was one of the big hits at auto shows this year. Though no official announcement has been made, the Bengal has received approval from GM's North American Strategy Board and is expected to go into production as early as the 2004 model year.

    Other than the Rendezvous sport wagon, which went on sale in May, the Buick lineup includes four conservative sedans that appeal to an older buyer. Though not a retro design, the Bengal adopts styling cues from the popular Buicks of the 1940s and 1950s, such as the portholes on the front fenders and the vertical grille.

    The fwd Bengal concept features a supercharged 3.4-liter, 250-hp V-6 and a six-speed automatic transmission. One innovation is the placement of the transmission in front of the engine, which results in better weight distribution for better handling.

    Century

    Value-conscious buyers with respect for the Buick name have made the Century Buick's No. 2-selling car last year and, so far, this year. Century sales were only 6,767 units less than LeSabre sales during the first seven months of this year. Century is Buick's lowest-priced sedan.

    Despite that, Buick plans to drop the Century after the 2003 model year as it expands the restyled Regal line.

    Regal

    For the 2002 model year, Buick adds spiffed-up LS and GS versions with interiors by fashion designer Roger Abboud.

    Buick will simplify its marketing and advertising strategy by killing the Century and offering a redesigned Regal that appeals to a wider range of wallets.

    The restyled 2004 Regal will be produced off GM's re-engineered mid-luxury W platform. The lineup will be expanded to keep Century owners in the fold.

    LeSabre

    Buick's steady-selling sedan is due for a reskin for the 2003 model year, followed by a redesign for the 2005 or 2006 model year. The redesign likely will share the fwd platform on tap for the next generation Cadillac DeVille, if the top-selling Cadillac remains fwd.

    LaCrosse

    Is it a four-door hardtop, a pickup or a station wagon? A little of each.

    The LaCrosse concept or a LaCrosse-like car is destined for the showroom around the 2005 or 2006 model year. But how much of the concept's styling and features will make it into production is uncertain, said a Buick source.

    Whatever the decision, the vehicle will replace the Park Avenue.

    The vehicle is expected to be built on GM's rear-wheel-drive Sigma platform, which has awd capability.

    Park Avenue

    Buick drops its flagship sedan at the end of the 2004 model year, replacing it with the LaCrosse concept or a vehicle that draws styling cues from the concept.

    Rendezvous

    Launched this spring, the Rendezvous gives Buick entry to sport-utility, sport wagon and minivan buyers. With the sport wagon looks of a Lexus RX 300 and seven-passenger seating, the Rendezvous will help Buick lower its average buyer age from 62. The Rendezvous may move to the Lambda platform later in the decade.

  • CADILLAC

    CTS

    Cadillac tried to woo BMW 3 series and Mercedes-Benz C class buyers with the Catera. But enthusiasts knew that it was little more than a spruced up Opel, and sales never took off. The Catera is gone.

    This decade, Cadillac will attempt to reinvent its image and product lines with a wide range of high-horsepower, rwd contenders. The first will be the 2003 CTS, a small sedan developed from GM's Sigma platform.

    The CTS will be the first Cadillac car to show the brand's new styling theme, seen initially on the Evoq concept car.

    A performance version, dubbed the CTSi, is expected for the 2004 model year.

    A new 3.2-liter, 220-hp V-6 replaces the 3.0-liter V-6 in the Catera. Cadillac will inject sportiness with a five-speed manual transmission from Getrag and a GM five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, making the CTS GM's first car with a five-speed automatic.

    The automatic, the 5L40-E Hydra-Matic, is used in the BMW 5 series. It allows the driver to choose sport, winter and economy driving modes.

    DeVille

    Due for a 2006 redesign, the DeVille may be the exception to Cadillac's overall move to rwd. Division officials hesitate to tamper with the formula for their top-selling car, so the De-Ville likely will remain fwd to placate traditional Cadillac customers. It may share a new large-car platform with the redesigned Buick LeSabre.

    Seville

    The redesigned 2004 Seville will be developed off GM's rwd Sigma platform. It will be produced in Cadillac's new Grand River plant in Lansing, Mich., along with the CTS and a sport wagon that has styling cues from the Vizon concept.

    The Seville may be renamed STS. A supercharged 4.2-liter V-8 is planned for the 2005 model year.

    Eldorado

    The long-running luxury coupe is slated for extinction when 2002 model-year production ends.

    XLR

    Production starts in 2003 for this rwd two-seater, styled after the Evoq concept car. The car likely will be cast as an early 2004 model. Cadillac has high expectations for this halo vehicle — and for the Evoq-inspired design in general. Expect prices in the $70,000 to $80,000 range with a sales target of 5,000 units.

    The architecture is shared with the next-generation Chevrolet Corvette.

    Escalade

    The sport-utility was redesigned for the 2002 model year. No changes are planned.

    Escalade EXT

    The 2002 Escalade EXT is part sport-utility and part pickup. Cadillac takes the passenger cabin from the Escalade and adds a short pickup bed. The Escalade EXT shares architecture including a cabin cargo door, which GM calls a Midgate, with the Chevrolet Avalanche.

    A Midgate is a tailgate-like door at the rear of the passenger compartment. The door expands cargo-carrying capability from the pickup bed into the passenger compartment.

    EXT sales begin early next year.

    All-wheel steering, branded Quad-rasteer, will be offered for the 2003 model year.

    Sport wagon

    The Vizon concept vehicle is the template for this 2003 sport wagon, also slated for production in Lansing on the Sigma rwd platform.

    The concept showed a 300-hp, 4.2-liter version of Cadillac's Northstar

    V-8 engine, night vision, awd, mini-video cameras in place of mirrors, liquid crystal display gauges that can be configured by the driver and radar-controlled adaptive cruise control.

    >

  • CHEVROLET

    Metro

    Relegated to fleet-only status for 2001, the subcompact will be killed at the end of the 2001 model year. GM is reportedly working with Suzuki on a small car, but it won't debut before the 2003 model year.

    Prizm

    The Prizm will be out of the lineup after the 2002 model year. Its production home, the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont, Calif., will be used to make the 2003 Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix sport wagons.

    Cavalier

    Plans to restyle the Cavalier have been dropped. Chevrolet is rushing to build a replacement for the 2004 model year that is based off the redesigned Opel Astra, which is built off GM's fwd Delta platform.

    GM has indicated the Cavalier will have strong Astra styling cues and that the Cavalier lineup may be augmented by a sport wagon or small minivan.

    Malibu

    A redesigned Malibu will debut on the Epsilon platform for the 2005 model year.

    Impala

    For 2002, the Impala offers a sport appearance package that includes front fascia enhancements, special gauges and restyled 16-inch aluminum wheels.

    A reskin along with engineering enhancements are planned for the 2004 model year to tide it over until the redesign arrives for 2006.

    Monte Carlo

    Monte Carlo is due for a reskin and engineering enhancements around the 2004 model year. Like its sister car, the Impala, a redesigned is slated for the 2006 model year.

    Camaro

    With no engineering and advertising support behind it, Camaro sales have plummeted, and 2002 is expected to be the last model year.

    Chevrolet's pony car has a long, rich heritage, and Chevrolet would like to resurrect the name. But there is no replacement in sight. Camaro's last model year ends with a 35th anniversary edition.

    Corvette

    The Corvette undergoes tweaking until the redesign appears in about 30 months. The 5.7-liter V-8 in the 2002 Z06 receives a 20-hp increase to 405 hp.

    Then, for the 2003 model year, Chevrolet will celebrate Corvette's 50th anniversary with a special edition.

    But whether there will be a 2004 model Corvette is unclear. The redesigned Corvette debuts early in 2004 and will share architecture with Cadillac's Evoq-styled roadster. On that schedule, Chevrolet would have the option to call the redesigned car a 2004 or a 2005 model.

    Skipping a model year would not be unusual. A 1983 Corvette was not produced; Chevrolet jumped from the 1982 Corvette to the redesigned 1984 Corvette.

    Tracker

    A fwd vehicle based on the Traverse concept will replace the Tracker in the 2005 model year. The Tracker name likely will be dropped. The vehicle will share the Theta platform with the Saturn Vue sport wagon and will be produced at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario.

    Blazer

    Despite the presence of its replacement, the TrailBlazer, Chevrolet will sell the popular Blazer through the 2003 model year.

    TrailBlazer

    The five-passenger 2002 TrailBlazer sport-utility was introduced this year. A seven-passenger version will go on sale early in 2002. To create that vehicle, GM stretched the wheelbase 16 inches.

    Tahoe, Suburban

    GM has nixed plans for a six-door Suburban, but expect Chevrolet's big trucks to adopt new technology in the 2003 model year, such as Delphi Automotive Systems Corp.'s Quadra-steer all-wheel steering.

    Astro

    Chevrolet's aging rwd minivan will be dropped at the end of the 2003 model year.

    Venture

    The awd system offered on the Pontiac Aztek and Buick Rendezvous will be available on the 2002 Venture minivan. A redesign comes in the 2005 or 2006 model year, when the minivan is switched to GM's Lambda platform.

    The current Venture was a compromise vehicle, designed for sales in both North America and Europe. Consequently, it is too narrow for U.S. tastes. GM officials will try to come close to the dimensions of the current Honda Odyssey for the Venture and its sister minivan, the Pontiac Montana.

    Express

    Chevrolet's full-sized, rwd van will be restyled for the 2003 model year.

    S10

    The replacement for Chevy's entry-level pickup, which is being co-engineered with Isuzu, is due for the 2004 model year and will be called the Colorado.

    Avalanche

    The formal launch comes this fall, but the combination sport-utility and pickup is on the street. The 2002 Avalanche features a cabin cargo door.

    It receives a minor freshening for 2004.

    Silverado

    Quadrasteer four-wheel steering will be available on certain 2002 models. The Silverado is slated for a freshening in the middle of the 2003 model year or for 2004.

    The 2004 Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup will offer GM's parallel hybrid 42-volt system. An electric motor takes the load off the V-6 gasoline engine by powering accessories when an integrated starter-alternator shuts the motor off during stops. The result is expected to be a 10 percent to 15 percent fuel savings. The truck also will be able to generate 4.8 kilowatts of power to run appliances and tools from external 110-volt plugs.

    SSR

    GM pushed the SSR into production after its debut as a 2000 concept vehicle drew strong praise. Styling is drawn from the Chevrolet pickup of the early 1950s. The two-passenger SSR features a 6.0-liter V-8 and a retractable roof. It will employ the GMT360 platform, currently used for the 2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Oldsmobile Bravada sport-utilities.

    Production will begin in late 2002 at GM's Lansing Craft Centre. It will be a low-volume model, projected at 10,000 to 12,000 units annually.

  • GMC

    Envoy

    GMC's Jimmy sport-utility will be dropped and replaced with the redesigned five-passenger 2002 Envoy, which is on sale.

    In the next 18 months, GMC plans to expand the Envoy lineup with at least two models. First is the Envoy XL, a seven-passenger sport-utility with a wheelbase that is 16 inches longer than the Envoy. It goes on sale early next year.

    A year later, GMC will introduce a truck that is both sport-utility and pickup, and features a cabin cargo door. The 2004 truck will be aimed at Ford's Explorer SportTrac.

    Yukon/Yukon XL

    Though GM has axed plans to build a six-door model for 2003, the full-sized sport-utilities will get a restyled front end and instrument cluster. Tech goodies include a driver information center, power-adjustable pedals and rear-seat DVD player.

    Safari

    Like its twin, the Chevrolet Astro, this minivan is headed for extinction after the 2003 model year.

    Savana

    The full-sized, rwd van will be restyled for the 2003 model year.

    Sonoma

    Unlike its sibling, the Chevrolet S10, GMC's entry-level pickup likely will not be replaced after the 2003 model year. But what GMC will do is unclear.

    Division officials want a more upscale entry vehicle for the 2004 model year that would help distinguish GMC from Chevrolet. Under consideration is an Isuzu-engineered sport wagon priced several thousand dollars above Chevrolet's smallest truck.

    Sierra

    GMC will top off its pickup line with the 2002 Sierra Denali, marking GMC's expansion of the premium Denali designation.

    The Denali features standard awd and optional all-wheel steering. It is powered by a 6.0-liter, 325-hp Vortec V-8.

    GMC will follow with the 2002 Sierra Professional pickup, based on a custom version shown at the 1999 Specialty Equipment Market Association show. The truck offers a cooler that can keep food warm or cold while the vehicle is turned off, cup- holders that can cool or warm, and ample storage areas for files, notebooks and tools.

    The Sierra will receive freshening that includes a new grille and a new instrument panel for the 2003 model year.

    The Sierra will offer GM's parallel hybrid system for the 2004 model year.

  • HUMMER

    H1

    The flagship of the Hummer brand likely will remain unchanged.

    H2

    GM begins the expansion of the Hummer brand with the 2003 H2 SVT, a four-door sport-utility that has the styling cues of the H1 but a price tag that is about $40,000 less. Though pricing has not been announced, the H2 SVT is expected to sell in the $50,000-to-$60,000 range.

    The H2 SVT will be built on GM's GMT800 truck platform, which also is used for full-sized Chevrolet and GMC trucks and will be powered by GM's 6.0-liter V-8.

    AM General Corp. will assemble the H2 SVT in Mishawaka, Ind. The plant will have the capacity to assemble 40,000 units. Production begins next summer.

    GM may expand the H2 line by adding a four-door model with a small pickup bed and a cabin cargo door, called the H2 SUT. If approved, the H2 SUT would go into production 18 months after the H2 SVT is launched and likely would be a 2004 model. Annual sales in the 15,000 to 20,000 range would be targeted.

    GM's Duramax diesel engine may be optional for both models.

    H3

    A smaller truck than the H2, the H3 is expected to feature a pickup bed. The H3 likely will roll out for the 2005 or 2006 model year, probably priced $40,000 to $50,000.

  • OLDSMOBILE

    Though GM has announced plans to kill Oldsmobile, the death is expected to be a slow one — about three years. But if Oldsmobile sales plummet, the brand could be put to rest earlier. Oldsmobile has said it will give a one-year notice before the division is shut down.

    Alero

    As part of its gradual phase-out, the Alero will be killed after the 2004 model year.

    Intrigue

    The Intrigue disappears after the 2002 model year.

    Aurora

    The Aurora dies after the 2005 model year

    Bravada

    The mid-sized sport-utility could outlast the division, given that the current version was projected until the 2007 model year. But it may be dropped earlier or moved to another division.

    Silhouette

    Oldsmobile's minivan will be dropped after the 2004 model year.

  • PONTIAC

    Sunfire

    Unlike its counterpart, the Chevrolet Cavalier, which will be replaced, the Sunfire most likely will be killed after the 2004 model year.

    Grand Am

    The redesigned Grand Am will debut in the 2005 model year on GM's fwd Epsilon platform.

    Grand Prix

    A re-engineered and restyled Grand Prix will be produced for the 2004 model year on GM's mid-luxury W platform.

    Bonneville

    The 2002 Bonneville SE receives freshened front and rear fascias. Beyond that, Pontiac has no plans for a replacement. Look for the Bonneville to be dropped near the end of the 2004 model year.

    Firebird

    Though there has been no announcement, the 2002 model year is expected to be the last for the Firebird.

    Aztek

    Pontiac will attempt to recover from its sport wagon's disappointing debut by rushing a freshening for the 2002 model year, followed by a more extensive makeover for 2003.

    The division's templates are the Aztek Salsa and Aztek Sport Edition concepts, both shown last October at the SEMA show in Las Vegas.

    For 2002, expect to see the contrasting color on the grille, fascia and cladding changed to match the color of the body paint. Larger wheels and tires will be added, as well as a small rear spoiler.

    The 2003 Aztek may be lowered and the track widened, similar to the concepts. The body panels may be reskinned.

    The next-generation Aztek may move to the Lambda platform later in the decade.

    Montana

    Pontiac's 2002 Montana minivan gets the Versatrak awd system as an option, as well as a factory-installed DVD entertainment system. Like the Chevrolet Venture, the Montana will move to the Lambda platform — and get bigger — for 2005 or 2006.

    REV concept

    Although the large Banner sport wagon was canceled, a smaller awd vehicle based on the four-passenger REV concept remains a possibility. Built on the Epsilon platform, the REV concept features an adjustable suspension height for off-roading and a supercharged, 245-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 engine.

    Vibe

    This small fwd sport wagon and its sibling, the Toyota Matrix, will be produced early next year as 2003 models in the GM-Toyota NUMMI plant in Fremont, Calif. The Vibe's annual sales are projected at 55,000 units to 60,000 units.

    Company officials have said the Vibe may stand alone as Pontiac's entry-level vehicle, pushing the Sunfire out of the lineup.

    Pontiac will offer an all-aluminum 130-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine built at Toyota's Buffalo, W.Va., engine plant.

    The base Vibe will be augmented by an awd model and a sporty GT model featuring a six-speed manual transmission and a high-output, 180-hp version of the base engine.

  • SATURN

    S series

    The replacement for the S series will be the first U.S. vehicle built on GM's fwd Delta platform, which is being developed in Europe by Opel.

    The Saturn small car will bow for the 2003 model year, though the S series name may be dropped.

    A wagon will not be offered.

    The vehicle gets GM's Ecotec four-cylinder engine.

    L series

    Head curtain airbags, antilock brakes and traction control are standard on the 2002 L series.

    The mid-sized sedan and wagon receive a reskin for the 2003 model year, followed by a redesign on the Epsilon platform for the 2005 model year.

    Vue

    Saturn gets into the truck game with the Vue, a compact sport wagon slated to hit showrooms this year. The Vue also marks the debut of a GM sport wagon platform, dubbed Theta.

    GM will load interesting technology into the Vue: a continuously variable transmission with the 138-hp, Ecotec 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine; and electric power steering, in which an electric motor moves the steering rack.

    The four-cylinder engine also will be offered with a five-speed manual transmission.

    The 181-hp dual-overhead camshaft 3.0-liter V-6 gets a five-speed automatic transmission, not the CVT.

    Product Editor Rick Kranz contributed to this report

  • You can reach Dave Guilford at dguilford@crain.com

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