Corp. has delayed indefinitely — or possibly axed completely — the Epsilon-based Pontiac Banner and Buick Signia crossovers, sources say. Code-named GMX390 and GMX391, the “sedan-like vans” were due in the 2003-2005 timeframe. Banner was supposed to replace the Pontiac Bonneville and Signia (see cover story, Feb. '98) was to take the place of Buick LeSabre, sources say.
Portions of the Epsilon program have been postponed or scaled back, because GM is changing the program's sourcing locations. The platform originally was assigned to assembly plants in Fairfax, KN; Oshawa, Ont.; and Delta Twp., MI. About six months into construction, GM moved Epsilon out of Delta Twp. and replaced it with the Lambda platform, a program that GM is co-developing with Subaru and is believed to include the next-generation minivans due in July of 2003 and crossover vehicles. Delta Twp. now is expected to open in 2004, a year later than planned.
GM is looking for another Epsilon plant to replace Delta Twp. Likely candidates are Orion Twp., MI; Hamtramck, MI; and Wilmington, DE. Some suppliers with Epsilon contracts that have purchased property near the Delta Twp. site are campaigning for the Orion plant because it is only about 80 miles (128 km) away, and land purchased near Delta Twp. still could be used for just-in-time delivery.
In addition to the assembly plant change, there are other reasons for Epsilon's delay. With an unstable economy, GM may be looking for more ways to increase cost-effectiveness. Epsilon also may be undergoing a product strategy shift. GM is over-represented in the midsize segment of the market, and the automaker likely is taking a closer look at what products it should continue developing and what should be dropped.