DETROIT-General Motors plans to create a wide range of premium all-wheel-drive vehicles that will evolve from architecture being created for the next-generation Saab 9-5.
The product portfolio will be developed from a new engineering and manufacturing alliance that is expected to include Cadillac, Fiat Auto, Opel and Saab, said a GM source who asked not to be identified. The alliance headquarters will be in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The product program has no official name, he said, although some within GM are calling it the Premium Alliance.
The alliance's goal is to take the best engineering and manufacturing processes from those companies and create a flexible vehicle architecture that allows the automakers to more quickly respond to changing consumer tastes with premium, niche vehicles, the source said.
GM defines an architecture as having a common build sequence, common component interfaces and common locating points.
Although Cadillac, Fiat and Opel have not locked in their product plans, they are expected to in the next few months, he said. Vehicles are expected to bow in 2004 and 2005.
Automotive News Europe, a sister publication to Automotive News, reported that the next-generation Alfa Romeo Spider, in 2004, will be one of the first vehicles from the alliance along with the next Saab 9-5 sedan, also in 2004.
It will be followed by the 2005 Lancia Lybra replacement and by the Alfa 156 and 166 successors, the paper said.
Paolo Sandri, former components platform director at Fiat Auto S.p.A., has been selected as team leader for the alliance.
'If you ever want to dream of being successful in this premium segment globally, you have to be successful in Europe. That is our goal,' said the GM source. 'We really want to become a significant player in this premium segment' by offering a wide range of products, the source said.
Although these vehicles will share the same architecture, that architecture allows the creation of a wide range of vehicles with different lengths, widths and wheelbases. They are not clones, and each vehicle's interior and exterior styling will be unique, the GM source said.
And although the new products will evolve from front-wheel-drive architecture, the vast majority is expected to be all-wheel drive. They will feature sophisticated suspensions and high torsional rigidity.
Asked about what type of vehicle might be developed for Cadillac, the GM source said: 'Think out of the box. It could be something that doesn't currently exist at Cadillac either by market entry or even the type of the vehicle.'