DETROIT –Corp., struggling under the possibility of bankruptcy and drawing government loans to stay afloat during the economic downturn, surprises at the North American International Auto Show with two new vehicles aimed at global markets in 2011.
The introductions, which GM uniquely executes in the style of a political rally with employees, retirees and dealers waving signs and issuing shouts of support, also includes a Cadillac concept based on the much-anticipated Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle.
GM says it will introduce a new-generation Chevy Spark minicar in the U.S. in 2011. The vehicle will be based on three minicar concepts the auto maker unveiled in 2007 at the New York International Auto Show, the Chevrolet Beat, Trax and Groove.
GM currently builds the first-generation Spark in China and India.
The new Spark’s introduction in Europe and other overseas markets in 2010 will precede its U.S. arrival, a cadence the auto maker currently is executing with its new Chevy Cruze global compact car.
GM promises the 4-door Spark will get 40 mpg (5.8 L/ 100 km), while declining to offer further details. Ward’s reported last year production of the Beat would begin at GM Daewoo Auto and Technology Co.’s Changwon complex in late 2008 or early 2009.
The Orlando concept, a 7-seat multipurpose vehicle, will follow a cadence similar to the Spark, arriving at U.S. dealers in 2011 after launching in other global markets. GM says it soon will provide additional details. The Orlando was engineered in South Korea and is based on the Chevy Cruze architecture.
The auto maker also unveils the Cadillac Convergj, a 4-passenger concept car that utilizes the Volt’s electric drivetrain with a small-displacement internal-combustion engine to extend its range beyond 45 miles (72 km).
GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz says the Converj signals the Cadillac design theme will continue to evolve. The Volt’s electric-propulsion system is flexible, “and can meet the needs and expectations of even the luxury-car audience,” he adds.
In total, GM rolls out 17 vehicles here to combat the public perception it gained at last year’s loan hearings that it is a dinosaur not capable of competing against swifter-moving Asian competitors, such asMotor Corp. and Motor Co. Ltd.
The rally and a video montage of employees and industry analysts testifying to GM’s vitality precede the vehicle introductions. Employees wave signs saying “Game changer” and “We’re electric” – both in reference to the Volt and Cadillac concept.
Video participants proclaim the gloves are off and urge consumers to “Give us a fair shake and we will win,” adding, “this company is going to survive for the next 100 years just fine, just fine.”
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm leads the parade of vehicles onto the stage, waving a “Here to stay” sign. Local sports play-by-play commentator and Detroit native Mario Impemba then introduces each vehicle as if it were a baseball All-Star, calling out its nameplate and key career statistics such as, “The Aveo 5, drives small and lives large!”
GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner tells the audience that lost in the headlines from last year’s Capitol Hill hearings is the fact “GM is a company driven by cars and trucks and technology innovation. And buried in all the financial news is the fact that we’ve made tremendous progress over the last couple years making cars and crossovers and trucks consumers really want to buy.”