General Motors Corp. has approved right-hand-drive production of the next-gen Chevrolet Corvette, due out in late 2003. The move heralds GM's decision to engineer right-hand-drive capability for a far wider range of its American models, as it attempts to broaden their appeal and increase sales in countries such as the U.K., Japan and Australia.

Only half of GM's models are available in rhd. The automaker plans to expand this to 70% by 2004. Apart from the Corvette sports car, the big push is on increasing Cadillac's global presence as a true luxury brand. The first rhd Cadillac, the all-new replacement for the Omega-based Catera, is programmed to be launched in the U.K. in 2002, less than a year after it breaks cover in the U.S. in late 2001. Over the next five years, Cadillac plans a series of new rear-wheel-drive models, including a V-12-equipped sedan to take on the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-series (see p.70).

Proposals for the new C6 Corvette, including one from British designer Simon Cox, currently are under evaluation in Detroit. Insiders say the new model's package retains the front-engine/rear drive layout of the current left-hand-drive only model, but reduced overhangs mean it's significantly shorter and lighter.