DETROIT -- General Motors filed a lawsuit against independent U.S. carmaker Avanti Motor Corp. on Friday aimed at preventing it from building a "knock-off" of GM's popular Hummer H2 sport utility vehicle.
A prototype version of the military-inspired vehicle, named the Studebaker in honor of the venerable automaker that went out of business four decades ago, was shown by Avanti this week at the Chicago Auto Show.
Avanti Chairman Michael Kelly said production versions of the massive truck, which is 17 inches longer than the Hummer and strikingly similar in its boxy and menacing shape, would go on sale in August.
But GM's federal trademark infringement lawsuit, filed in a U.S. District Court in Detroit, could kill off the gas-thirsty Studebaker more quickly than the demise of its namesake.
"It is clear that Avanti Motor Corporation is attempting to profit from and capitalize upon the enormous popularity and goodwill that GM has developed in the wildly successful H2 by knocking off the H2," Charles Ellerbrock, a trademark lawyer for GM, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
"GM, however, will not permit others to misappropriate the goodwill that GM has spent tens of millions of dollars developing," he said.
In its suit, GM demands a preliminary injunction that would prevent Avanti from manufacturing, advertising and selling the Studebaker, which Avanti promoted in Chicago as an "Xtreme Utility Vehicle."
Avanti President Kevin Hines said the company would have a formal statement about the GM suit next week. But he said the Studebaker and Hummer had "substantial styling differences" and hinted that Avanti was prepared to go toe-to-toe with the world's largest automaker in court.
"People love an underdog," Hines said.
In an interview in Chicago on Thursday, Kelly told Reuters that Avanti, which operates a small auto plant in Villa Rica, Georgia, planned to build about 1,000 Studebakers per year.
The truck would have a starting price of $75,000 and come equipped with a 10-cylinder engine from Ford Motor Co. or a V-8 turbo diesel, he said.
Because of the vehicle's gargantuan size and weight, Kelly said the gasoline-powered version would get just 13 miles per gallon on city streets and 17 mpg on highways.
Kelly takes more than just a passing interest in reviving the Studebaker name, which he said had been "sitting dormant for many years" before he applied for the rights to use it.
He is a native of South Bend, Indiana, where Studebaker was based until its demise in December 1963. The Avanti sports car, which his company builds in Villa Rica, was once built by Studebaker.
"I grew up with Studebaker. I grew up with Avanti," Kelly said.
Only 150 Avantis are built yearly and the company says the sleek-looking vehicles, which are handcrafted, have fans all over the world.