General Motors' plants are humming with launches for the 2004 model year. But they are waiting for the Lutz factor to emerge.
Vice Chairman Robert Lutz, GM's product guru, has streamlined vehicle development since arriving in September 2001. He is shaping the product portfolio, but the first vehicle bearing his complete imprimatur won't arrive until the 2005 model year.
The earliest evidence of Lutz's taste for an entire production vehicle will come with the 2005 Buick Regal - one of the cars he pulled back for a major redo shortly after his arrival. The Regal originally approved by GM management had uninspired styling, with Buick's classic portholes in the front fenders.
But other 2005 models such as the Cadillac STS sedan and redesigned Corvette received only Lutz-inspired tweaks.
The big model year for the Lutz factor is expected to be 2006.
|What will change|
|Here are the major planned changes in the lineup by model year.|
|Rainier debuts||LaCrosse (Regal replacement debuts)|
Terraza minivan debuts
|LeSabre restyled, re-engineered||Mid-sized vehicle debuts|
Rendezvous redesigned on Lambda architecture
|CTS V debuts|
Armored DeVille debuts
|STS redesigned||DTS restyled, re-engineered||CTS restyled, re-engineered (or 2008)|
Escalade redesigned (or 2008)
Malibu Maxx debuts
Uplander minivan debuts
|Impala restyled, re-engineered|
Monte Carlo restyled, re-engineered
HHR retro wagon debuts
|TrailBlazer, EXT restyled, re-engineered|
Tahoe, Suburban redesigned (or 2008)
Possible SSR van
|Envoy XUV debuts|
|Envoy restyled, re-engineered|
Yukon, XL redesigned (or 2008)
|H2 SUT pickup debuts||H3 debuts||H4 possible|
|Grand Prix restyled, re-engineered|
|G6, Grand Am successor, debuts|
Montana SV6 minivan debuts
|Relay minivan debuts||Mid-sized sedan debuts||Sport wagon debuts on Lambda architecture|
Meanwhile, GM's launches include eight new or redesigned Chevrolet vehicles in the next 20 months.
Truck highlights include the 2004 Cadillac SRX sport wagon, the mid-sized 2004 GMC Canyon pickup and 2004 Envoy XUV, and the 2004 Buick Rainier SUV.
GM will bolster its car lineup with the 2004 Cadillac XLR roadster and the Pontiac GTO, which revives a legendary muscle-car nameplate on a car built by GM's Australian affiliate, Holden.
Here are GM's plans for model years 2004 through 2007:
Century: Buick's popular nameplate disappears after the 2004 model year. Buick's lowest priced sedan does not fit the brand's new image, which will move a few notches upscale as vehicles are introduced this decade.
Park Avenue: The Park Avenue's future is uncertain beyond the 2005 model year. Several models are being considered as an entry in the full-sized premium segment. A successor likely would bear a different name.
Buick's Centieme concept could be in showrooms for the 2007 model year.
GM's new Lambda vehicle architecture will spark minivans and sport wagons this decade.
The Rendezvous will be restyled and re-engineered for the 2007 model year, or it will shift to the Lambda architecture.
Expect a posh and extremely quiet interior to differentiate it from GM's Chevy and GMC SUVs.
Crossover sport van: "Don't call it a minivan," GM insiders say. "Call it a crossover sport van." Styling, particularly the front end, will resemble an SUV. But the vehicle will retain the cargo- and people-carrying features of a minivan, including the sliding side doors. The vehicle debuts for the 2005 model year and will be developed off portions of the current minivan architecture.
Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn also will have crossover sport vans.
label will feature a high horsepower engine and steering, braking and handling enhancements.
Target buyers are Mercedes-Benz AMG and BMW M enthusiasts.
The CTS V, equipped with a 400-hp, 5.7-liter Corvette V-8 engine, debuts for the 2004 model year.
The CTS will be re-engineered and restyled for the 2007 or 2008 model year.
The DeVille will be restyled and re-engineered for the 2006 model year, retaining fwd to appeal to traditional Cadillac drivers. Cadillac will drop the DeVille name at that time, opting for DTS.
GM is expected to redesign the DTS at the end of the decade and adopt rear drive.
XLR: A measure of Cadillac's big ambitions, the $76,200, two-passenger roadster takes Cadillac into upper premium pricing, competing with the Mercedes-Benz SL500. The rwd 2004 XLR shares architecture with the next-generation 2005 Chevrolet Corvette.
Cadillac widens its SUV offerings with the 2004 SRX. Both V-8 and V-6 models will be available, along with an optional third-row seat. The SRX is the second vehicle off General Motors' rwd Sigma architecture, which it shares with the Cadillac CTS.
Aveo: The Korean-built, Daewoo Kalos-based sedan and hatchback arrive early next year for the 2004 model year. The car will be priced near $10,000 to battle the Hyundai and Kia entry-level models. Four- and five-door models will be offered.
As the Aveo will cover the low end, the goal will be to position the Cobalt at the upper end of the small-car market. The Cobalt will be priced above the Cavalier.
A Cobalt SS will be offered. SS is Chevrolet's performance brand. Vehicles with that designation will receive a horsepower boost and braking, handling and steering enhancements. The interior and exterior styling also will be upgraded.
The Cobalt SS is expected to be packed with a supercharged 2.0-liter Ecotech four-cylinder engine producing about 220 hp.
The Chevrolet Malibu line is redesigned for the 2004 model year and features a new model, the Malibu Maxx hatchback, above.
The 2004 Malibu Maxx is a five-door hatchback that will be built off the same architecture.
The two Malibu models are examples of how GM will differentiate models developed off the same platform. While the Malibu Maxx's wheelbase is 6 inches longer than the sedan's, the Maxx's overall length is 1.5 inches shorter. In addition, little sheet metal is shared between the two cars.
The Maxx debuts in the fourth quarter of this year.
The car will be sold to fleets, possibly into the 2006 model year, when GM will transfer workers from the Lansing, Mich., Malibu plant to a plant it is opening nearby to build Lambda crossover vehicles.
The Impala will be restyled and re-engineered for the 2006 model year, and a V-8 will be offered.
Corvette: Vette lovers are brimming with anticipation for the redesigned C6, which arrives next summer for the 2005 model year. Buff books have offered spy photos and artists' conceptions of the C6. The most controversial feature appears to be fixed - that is, nonretractable - headlights.
Styling changes appear likely to be evolutionary. But stay tuned: GM has scoffed at all speculation.
The 2005 Equinox is Chevrolet's response to the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V and other sport wagons. Production begins early next year at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario.
While the Equinox will be developed off the fwd Theta platform used by the Saturn Vue, there will be significant styling and dimensional differences between the two vehicles. The Equinox's wheelbase is 5.4 inches longer than the Vue's; the length is 7.7 inches greater.
Equinox production begins in the first quarter of 2004. Awd will be optional.
Retro wagon: GM is exploring a tall wagon developed on the fwd Delta platform. The vehicle could go into production in Mexico as early as the 2006 model year. If built, the vehicle would feature retro styling. This could be Chevrolet's response to the PT Cruiser.
Chevrolet's newest pickup is the 2004 Colorado. The popular S10 will be phased out.
Chevy's low-volume, retro-style pickup roadster debuts this summer as a 2003. Chevy is exploring a van version for the 2007 model year.
The front end will feature a tall, prominent grille, combined with tall fenders to house the headlights. It will be several inches higher than the 2003 Venture.
Astro: Once slated to die at the end of the 2004 model year, the Astro has been extended through the 2005 model year. Beyond that, Chevrolet is considering the Express as its sole entry in the rwd van market.
The SUV features an electrically operated sliding roof over the waterproof cargo area, providing space to carry a grandfather's clock upright, for example.
The Envoy will be restyled and re-engineered for the 2007 model year.
GM will continue to build the Sonoma pickup for a portion of the 2004 model year.
Safari: The rwd van was slated to die at the end of the 2003 model year. Its life has been extended into 2005.
Savana: Stability control will be standard on 15-passenger vans. The safety feature will be added midway through the 2004 model year.
Adios, Oldsmobile: After 107 years the 2004 model year will be its finale. All that remain in the lineup for its last model year are the Alero, Bravada and Silhouette.
Sunfire: Pontiac will continue to offer the Sunfire on the current J-car architecture for the 2005 model year and possibly 2006 - splitting paths from its sister vehicle, the Chevrolet Cavalier. Chevrolet's Cavalier replacement, called the Cobalt, will be produced off GM's new fwd Delta platform for the 2005 model year.
Insiders say Pontiac has not decided what type of entry-level vehicle will fit the performance image the brand is trying to create.
GM insiders say the Pontiac G6 concept is the replacement for the Pontiac Grand Am. The Grand Am name will be retired when the car debuts for the 2005 model year.
The car will be developed off GM's mid-sized, fwd Epsilon architecture.
The Grand Am name will be dropped when the as-yet-unnamed four-door sedan debuts for the 2005 model year. A coupe will follow in early 2005, followed by a retractable hard-top model in the third quarter of 2005.
The new car will be aimed at the enthusiast crowd and is expected to be priced a few notches above the Grand Am.
A GXP version is likely in early 2006.
GXP is Pontiac's performance brand. Vehicles wearing that badge will receive horsepower, handling, steering and braking enhancements and a spoiler, bigger wheels and styling changes.
A GXP version arrives in summer 2005.
It features a 4.6-liter, 32-valve, double overhead cam Northstar V-8 engine with an estimated 275 hp and 300 pounds-feet of torque.
But the Bonneville's future is uncertain beyond the 2007 model year.
The four-passenger GTO coupe will be packed with a 5.7-liter V-8, producing an estimated 350 hp and 365 pounds-feet of torque.
Vibe: The Vibe will be freshened for the 2006 model year. In the long term, GM is looking for a V-6-powered vehicle for that segment and may replace the Vibe with a vehicle on the Epsilon mid-sized car architecture. The Toyota-engineered Vibe is offered with a four-cylinder engine.
Sport wagon: Pontiac will get a sport wagon off the Lambda architecture for the 2007 or 2008 model year. Projected volume is 60,000 units annually. It will debut with a V-6, followed by a V-8 a year later.
Ion: The 200-hp-plus Red Line performance coupe goes into production in the first quarter of 2004. The car will feature a supercharged 2.0-liter Ecotech four-cylinder engine producing an estimated 200 pounds-feet of torque. Red Line is Saturn's performance brand.
Vue: Starting with the 2004 model year, Honda will provide the engine for all V-6-equipped Vues. The 3.5-liter V-6 produces 250 hp on regular gasoline. By comparison, the Honda version in the 2003 Acura MDX uses premium fuel and produces 260 hp.
A Red Line model joins the line in the first quarter of 2004. No horsepower upgrade is planned.
Saturn will offer a hybrid powertrain for the 2006 model year. The system will use an electric motor at low speeds, switching to the four-cylinder gasoline engine. GM hopes to sell 10,000 Vue hybrids annually.
Sport wagon: Saturn will get a vehicle on the crossover fwd/awd Lambda architecture for the 2007 model year. Projected volume is 100,000 units annually. It will debut with a V-6, followed by a V-8 for the 2008 model year.
Crossover sport van: Production begins in late 2004 for the 2005 model year. As with other divisions' attempts to recast the minivan, the Saturn will feature front-end styling resembling an SUV but will retain the capabilities of a traditional minivan.
Automotive News Product Editor Rick Kranz contributed to this report