Corp. will accelerate production of its redesigned â€™09 Pontiac Vibe by at least two months, a move meant to satisfy an advanced timetable for the â€™09 Matrix and growing consumer demand for choices in the upper-small car segment.
The 6-year-old Vibe and Matrix share a common platform. The Vibe is built at New United Motor Mfg. Inc., a Fremont, CA-based facility operated jointly by GM andMotor Corp. The Matrix is produced at Toyotaâ€™s Cambridge, ON, Canada, plant.
Toyota wants to update the Matrix because it has attracted families, rather than younger buyers the auto maker originally sought.
â€śThe styling does not have the sense of motion about it,â€ť says Mike Oâ€™Brien, head of product planning for Toyota Motor Co. USA, during a recent industry event in Michigan. â€śItâ€™s a bit boxy. And it just does not have the appeal to young people that we had hoped for.â€ť
In speeding the Matrix redo, production of the â€™09 Vibe now will begin in first-quarter 2008, ahead of a typical NUMMI production turnover in mid-second quarter.
â€śThey are sister vehicles, so the timing that would affect one vehicle would affect the other,â€ť a GM spokesman tells Wardâ€™s.
In GMâ€™s case, the earlier the redesigned hatchback arrives the better. More fresh choices in its fuel-sipping small-car portfolio could help diversify its mix.
The upper-small segment that Vibe occupies commanded 12.4% of the light-vehicle market in 2006, up from 12.2% in 2005 and 11.9% in 2004, according to Wardâ€™s data.
Related document: U.S. Light Vehicle Sales by Segment, 2002-2006
So far this year, the segmentâ€™s share of the light-vehicle market stands at 12.6%. However, Vibe sales in the first eight months were down 27.4% to 24,925 units, from 34,353 in like-2006.
The redesigned Vibe will arrive at dealers shortly after production begins next year.
Vincent Brown, a sales associate at Inland Valley Pontiac-GMC-Buick in San Bernardino, CA, likes the idea of a new Vibe arriving early but also hopes the redesign distances the Pontiac model from the Matrix.
â€śThe Vibe and Matrix look way too similar,â€ť he says.
While the current Vibe achieves a thrifty 33 mpg (7 L/100 km) on the highway, its model range also has shrunk to just a single variant after GM discontinued all-wheel-drive and GT variants with the â€™07 edition.
GM says those models likely will return with the redesign, although given the Vibeâ€™s fuel efficiency, plans do not include a hybrid.
Brown, whose dealership is located about 60 miles (96 km) east of Los Angeles, thinks his customers would appreciate an AWD option more than a GT model, but it boils down to fuel economy.
â€śWe get older people shopping the Vibe and we get younger people â€“ the biggest reason is for its gas mileage,â€ť he says.