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June 24, 2003

USA: General Motors focuses on revamped car line for 2004 model year

General Motors says it is focused on rebuilding its historical strength in passenger cars while broadening its current strength in trucks as it enters the 2004 model year in the United States. "GM today is leaner, faster, more flexible and more efficient," said marketing and advertising head John Middlebrook. "We're focused like a laser on bringing to market the kind of well-built, stylish, innovative vehicles that GM was known for when it was the undisputed automotive leader."

By bcusack

General Motors says it is focused on rebuilding its historical strength in passenger cars while broadening its current strength in trucks as it enters the 2004 model year in the United States.

“GM today is leaner, faster, more flexible and more efficient,” said marketing and advertising head John Middlebrook. “We’re focused like a laser on bringing to market the kind of well-built, stylish, innovative vehicles that GM was known for when it was the undisputed automotive leader.”

GM will introduce more than 30 new cars and car-based models in the next three years – and 90% of GM’s 2002 model year car entries and 94% of 2002 model year car volume will be overhauled over a four-year period, the company said in a statement.

Rough translation: there’s a new Malibu and Pontiac GTO for 2004, the ancient Cavalier is being renewed, at last, and there are some Chevrolet-badged Daewoos coming as cheap entry-level models. Not to mention some other interesting new Pontiacs and Cadillacs. But don’t ask about new Oldsmobiles.

GM claims it will use a global base of architectures and powertrains to cost-efficiently build multiple derivatives while focusing on quality and reliability.

The company is also commited to performance and fuel efficiency in powertrains and, over the next three years, will introduce 15 engine and transmission variants for passenger cars.

Chevrolet Malibu Maxx

GM’s plan is to improve its offerings at both the entry-level and luxury ends of the passenger-car market, while simultaneously tackling the middle and also rolling out high-performance models and variants to appeal to enthusiasts.

At the entry level, the relatively new Pontiac Vibe (a Toyota Corolla derivative built in the California joint venture factory) and Saturn Ion sedan and coupe (neither version very well received by the US motoring press) will be joined by the Daewoo-built Chevrolet Aveo available as a four-door sedan or ‘sporty’ five-door hatchback.

At the luxury end, Cadillac is following up the CTS sedan with the XLR, a luxury roadster with Northstar 4.6-litre V8 VVT (variable valve timing).

GM has also just launched the redesigned Saab 9-3 convertible – based on the 9-3 sedan that debuted a year ago.

Chevrolet will introduce the redesigned Malibu sedan and Malibu Maxx extended sedan (similar to GM Europe’s new Opel Signum) while Pontiac launches a redesigned Grand Prix.

There’s also the new Pontiac GTO coupe, for which GM has turned to Down Under rear-drive big car specialist Holden in Australia.

Pontiac GTO

Marketing divisions also are working with the new GM Performance Division to develop high-performance passenger-car variants designed to appeal to enthusiasts. These new models are said to provide a total performance package appropriate to brand identities, striking a balance between horsepower, beefed-up chassis capabilities, driver-oriented features like sport seats, and unique styling cues.

For 2004, these include the CTS-V, the most powerful production Cadillac ever, with a 5.7 litre V8 expected to produce 400 horsepower (298kW); the Chevrolet Impala SS and Monte Carlo Supercharged SS, each featuring a supercharged, 240-horsepower (179kW) V6; the Pontiac Bonneville GXP, with 275-horsepower (205kW) V8, and even the Saturn Ion Red Line, aimed at compact-car performance enthusiasts with its estimated 200-horsepower (149kW) Ecotec two-litre supercharged engine, tweaked handling and revised styling.

GM says that, despite the focus on new cars, it will bolster its truck line with increased levels of technology and innovation, as well as several new model offerings.

In full-size trucks, six new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra models will be launched. These include Silverado and Sierra hybrid FlexPower models, going into production for fleet and commercial customers in October 2003 with a standard Vortec 5300 V8 engine and Hydra-Matic 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission coupled with the segment’s first hybrid propulsion technology, providing 10% to 15% better fuel economy, 120-volt electrical power with ground-fault detection and a unique accessory powering capability.

Saab 9-3 2004 convertible

New displacement on demand technology will also debut in calendar 2004 on the 2005 GMC Envoy XL and XUV and Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT. Displacement on Demand automatically activates or deactivates half or more of an engine’s cylinders, delivering to the driver only the exact amount of power required at any given time, and thus improving fuel economy in the process.

GM is making more use of use of global platforms, such as Epsilon, for its US market models. Global architectures enable GM to tailor different vehicles for different markets with a cost-efficient investment, thus keeping vehicle prices lower.

Epsilon debuted in Europe under the new Opel Vectra and Saab 9-3 in 2003 and, for 2004, is the basis of the new Pontiac Grand Prix and Chevy Malibu and the stretched Malibu Maxx. Epsilon also will be the flexible foundation for the next-generation Pontiac Grand Am sedan and coupe, and a future Saturn mid-size vehicle.

Really stretching the global resources of the GM group is the already derided ‘new’ Saab 9-2 model spun off Subaru’s Impreza which starts production in ‘04.

“GM is recapturing the bold spirit that drove us in our celebrated past,” said Middlebrook. “Watch this space: With our renewed emphasis on passenger cars this year, coupled with our growing strength in trucks and SUVs, look for this to be the year that GM not only ‘keeps America rolling,’ but helps get America rocking and rolling as well.”

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