More stories related to 2005 Greater L.A. Auto Show The ’06 Chevrolet HHR, the second attempt in as many years by General Motors Corp.’s bread-and-butter division at introducing a segment-busting vehicle, is scheduled to be unveiled this week at the ’05 Greater L.A. Auto Show.

Following the introduction in early 2003 of the SSR roadster pickup, the HHR is a funky retro-designed crossover van that is based on GM’s Delta small-car platform, which also is used for the Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Ion small cars.

The HHR, which inevitably will draw comparisons by consumers to the Chrysler PT Cruiser, fuses design elements of the ’49 Chevy Suburban SUV and the SSR.

“I think (the HHR) is going to have appeal across a broad range of demographics,” says GM North America President Gary Cowger. “It has a terrific look at what will be an affordable price.”

’06 Chevy HHR

But the HHR may be arriving too late. Sales of the PT Cruiser (excluding the convertible), which debuted to roaring demand in 2000, have declined every year since 2001 and are down 6.1% through November vs. like-2003 results.

Furthermore, GM recently announced plans to reduce SSR production due to weak demand. (See related story: GM Idles SSR Output)

GM declines to disclose HHR sales forecasts and pricing.

As previously reported by Ward’s, the HHR will be built at GM’s Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, plant and go on sale in the second half of 2005. (See related story: Ramos Gets Delta)

The 5-passenger HHR’s overall length is 174.5 ins. (443 cm) and has a cargo capacity of approximately 63.1 cu.-ft. (1.8 cu.-m). “The HHR is what you want it to be, whether you’re hauling band equipment around the country or hauling your friends across town,” says Lori Queen, GM’s small car vehicle line executive.

HHR has two model levels: LS and LT. The LT also comes in two packages – 1LT and 2LT. The LS and 1LT are powered by GM’s Ecotec 2.2L 4-cyl. rated at 140 hp. An Ecotec 170-hp 2.4L 4-cyl. is standard in the 2LT and optional with the 1LT.

A 5-speed manual transmission is standard and an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic is available in all models.

The 4-door HHR’s high roof evokes the look of the ’49 Chevy Suburban, while other exterior cues carry the expressive attributes of the SSR roadster – like the deep-draw, flared fenders. Contemporary Chevy styling cues also are incorporated, including a prominent cross-grille bar with a bowtie logo. But the PT Cruiser similiarities are unavoidable, although the HHR looks heavier and chunkier.

HHR’s interior emphasizes cargo-carrying flexibility – from groceries to surfboards.

The front passenger seat folds flat, along with the 60/40 rear seats.

The cargo area provides a continuous flat load floor when the rear seats are folded down and two large storage bins are located forward of the load floor. But the cabin arguable features too much plastic as well as many PT Cruiser themes, including the center-console located power window buttons, the round gear shifter and storage shelf in the cargo area.

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com