General Motors Corp.'s admission last week that it is prolonging the lifecycle of its current generation Chevrolet Cavalier/Pontiac Sunfire compacts from 2002 until 2004 doesn't mean the automaker's forthcoming Delta small car platform program has been pushed back, too, the company says.

GM, which also stripped the program's lead plant designation from its CAMI Automotive Inc. joint venture with Suzuki Motor Corp. in Ingersoll, Ont., says it made the moves to reallocate resources from developing less profitable small cars to more popular and profitable light trucks. Appeasing the United Auto Workers union, which openly opposes some Delta plans calling for partitioning assembly, at the onset of national negotiations didn't play a part in the decision, the company says.

Delta, scheduled to debut in 2002, is the basis for the Cavalier/Sunfire, Saturn S-series, Opel Astra and expected compact sport/utility vehicles. “It's still the same model year as intended (for the U.S. market),” confirms a GM spokesman, who adds that postponing the J-cars' move to the Delta platform won't delay the next-generation Saturn S-series.

GM wouldn't comment further, but supplier sources say that Saturn's Spring Hill, TN, facility now is the lead Delta plant in the U.S. A supplier source also says the Sunfire's role in Delta has “officially been canceled,” which may indicate the Pontiac compact will go out of production in 2004. Another source adds that the Cavalier's future in Delta “has not been decided. Delta is still in the planning phase, so (GM is) not going to commit to that happening.”

While GM may be scaling back investment, it's not giving up completely on its current small cars. Cavalier, which received minor tweaks for the '00 model year, will be overhauled before 2004. “There's substantial improvements coming to the car,” says the source.

The re-do under the Delta program originally scheduled for the Cavalier/Sunfire was to be a part of GM's controversial Yellowstone modular assembly program, calling for new plants to be built in Lordstown, OH, and Lansing, MI. GM was to make a decision on those plants last April but ran into strong opposition from the UAW. It's likely the future of existing plants in Lordstown and Lansing will be on the table in labor talks that kicked off last week.