WARREN, MI – The reconstitutedCo. pulls back the curtain on its future products, revealing plans for 25 new or redesigned cars and cross/utility vehicles over the next 24 months.
The product program will double Buick’s portfolio, add an entry-level sports car and big sedan at Cadillac, grow the number of affordable, fuel-efficient products at Chevrolet and inject some youth and luxury into GMC.
GM President and CEO Fritz Henderson says by eliminating brands and shifting spending from pricey truck programs to less-expensive cars and CUVs in the last 24 months, the auto maker has been able to fill its pipeline with the sorts of products it thinks consumers will demand over the coming two years.
“First thing we did was eliminate our spending on Hummer – a huge amount of capital (saved), actually,” Henderson says of the SUV division GM plans to sell to Chinese industrial group Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. Ltd. “We eliminated spending on Pontiac, Saturn, Saab…so a relatively meaningful amount of capital and engineering came out of the budget just from the decisions regarding brands.”
GM is closing in on the final sale of Saturn and its Saab Automobile AB unit to dealer giant Rogerand Swedish sports-car maker Koenigsegg Group AB, respectively, while it will kill Pontiac altogether by year’s end. It will go to market with four core brands – Chevy, Cadillac, Buick and GMC.
“Number two, we said we needed to focus our brands in terms of cars and crossovers,” he says, noting the two segments comprise all of the auto maker’s new launches through 2014. “We will allocate money to those (truck) programs – we have allocated engineering, but the power of our capital engineering is in cars and (CUVs).
“As we went through the travails of 2008 and early 2009 to forestall bankruptcy, there was certainly programs we would have wanted to do but ended up on the cutting floor,” Henderson says prior to a product deep dive for journalists and industry analysts here. “But the core brands and core technologies we’ve been able to preserve quite well. We have a lot to sell.”
In addition to previously announced products such as the ’11 Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle and all-new ’11 Chevy Cruze – both coming in late 2010 – the bow-tie division also will add a redesigned Chevy Malibu in ’12 among a 10-model infusion to its portfolio.
The new Malibu will switch to the short-wheelbase version of the current Epsilon II platform that shoulders the award-winning Opel Insignia in Europe and boasts a wider track, translating to more elbow room inside. The current Malibu sits on the long-wheelbase version of Epsilon II.
GM also refashions the front and a rear of Chevy’s volume passenger car to accommodate new pedestrian-protection laws due in the U.S. and makes the rear trunk larger and more easily accessible, addressing a key customer complaint with the current model.
David Lyon, executive director-interior design for North America, promises a Malibu interior with a level of detail and jewelry “taken to new heights.” The interior also receives a radically new faux-leather covering for the dash and door panels, which feature subtle two-tone coloring and graining.
“It really adds another level of sophistication,” Lyon says during a rundown of future Chevy products inside the design dome on the auto maker’s research and development campus.
Lyon also points out the 7-passenger Chevy Orlando, a multipurpose vehicle unveiled at last year’s North American International Auto Show that straddles the passenger car, wagon and family van segment.
The Orlando shares the Volt/Cruze platform, known as Delta, and Lyon says when it arrives in ʼ11 the vehicle will have more “crossover” appeal than “utility-leaning” competitors now on the market, such as the Mazda5.
Expect comfortable seating in all three rows, despite the vehicle’s compact architecture, Lyon says. A pearl-white and gray interior, as well as black and red execution, will impress shoppers, he adds.
Shown with a 150-hp, 2.0L 4-cyl. diesel in Detroit, GM officials do not elaborate on potential engines beyond saying the Orlando only will offer a pair of gasoline mills.
GM also gives the green light to the Camaro convertible for second-quarter 2011.
Cadillac continues the “Art & Science” renaissance it began 10 years ago, stretching the design theme to a new entry-level sports car and a fullsize sedan.
The small car will come in both coupe and sedan versions, says GM Global Design chief Ed Welburn, although he stops short of pinpointing its arrival date more specifically than within the next 24 months.
Welburn does not provide powertrain details, but says the vehicle, dubbed the ATS in its near-production form here, will feature a longitudinal layout with rear-wheel and optional all-wheel drive.
The fullsize sedan will arrive within 24 months, as well. Welburn declines comment on whether base models would be front or rear drive, but its designation as the XTS4 suggests AWD will be an option.
According to a Canadian Auto Workers labor agreement, a fullsize FWD car is due at the Oshawa, ON, plant in 2013, and the XTS could be that vehicle. It is built on the long-wheelbase version of Epsilon II that underpins the Buick LaCrosse, made in Fairfax, KS.
Welburn says both the ATS and XTS were designed through “fiercely-friendly” competition between GM studios in Warren, the U.K. and China.
The XTS will be marketed in China, Welburn says, although he thinks the fullsize luxury sedan could survive if North America was its only market. “If done right,” he adds with a raised finger, citing compelling design and good fuel economy as two “must-haves.”
With the CTS lineup growing with the addition of a coupe next year and performance “V” edition and the Sport Wagon arriving later this summer, GM’s premium brand now has an entire family of vehicles off the Sigma architecture.
Buick makes a tremendous leap in the coming years, doubling its portfolio from three vehicles to six, just some five years after shrinking from eight nameplates.
“We think six is exactly where we need to be,” says Susan Docherty, vice president-Pontiac, Buick and GMC.
Soon joining the Buick Enclave large CUV, LaCrosse midsize sedan and Lucerne fullsize sedan in showrooms is a 5-passenger CUV based on the auto maker’s Theta Epsilon platform next year, which includes a plug-in hybrid-electric version for 2011. Buick also will get a smaller midsize sedan sharing the short-wheelbase Epsilon II platform with the Malibu and a compact sedan.
GMC, meanwhile, likely will add an up-level Denali version to the Acadia large CUV, and the division’s design studio included a funky, unnamed concept car similar in size and shape to a Kia Soul.
GM says the concept has a slim shot of making it to market as presented with its clamshell doors, but designers are using it as a way study how a premium vehicle could be executed by the brand in a more entry-level segment.
GM hosts the 1-day product dive for journalists and analysts between Warren and its proving grounds in nearby Milford, MI. Reflecting its new prudence after a 39-day trip through bankruptcy, most of the participants were asked to drive themselves to the event instead of the auto maker footing the bill for air fare and lodging.
And reflecting GM’s new priority to put the customer first, it conducts the same event a day earlier for a mix of consumers who have been severely critical of the company and longtime GM buyers.