GM Shows They Are Still Very Much In The Game

Fort Worth Star Telegram
G. Chambers Williams III

GM parades 17 vehicles before media at Detroit auto show

The nation’s top automaker showed recently at the Detroit auto show that the company is far from out.

Three of the vehicles were ones GM had already said it would roll out at the show, the redesigned 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, Cadillac SRX and Buick LaCrosse.

But the automaker also showed three others that weren’t expected: the production version of the compact Orlando crossover vehicle, whose concept was unveiled at last fall’s Paris auto show; the Converj, a Cadillac version of the planned Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car; and the Chevrolet Spark, a very fuel-efficient minicar that GM plans to introduce in the U.S. market in early 2011.

And in all, the automaker paraded 17 vehicles through the show’s media days that will be on the market as new or significantly revised products over the next two years.

One of the surprises was the Orlando, a seven-seat crossover based on the architecture of the soon-to-be-offered Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan.

The Orlando "offers the versatile attributes of a sport utility, family van and wagon," GM said. It’s considerably smaller than the new, 2009 Chevrolet Traverse, although both have a third row of seating.

The Orlando is intended to be a lower-priced, highly fuel-efficient people hauler, more in the vein of a Toyota RAV4. It will come only with a four-cylinder engine. The concept was powered by a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine, but there is no word yet whether that engine will be offered in the U.S. market.

GM says the Orlando has "reconfigurable, theater-style seating," and that both the second and third rows can be folded into the floor to create a completely flat load floor when extra cargo space is needed.

As for the Spark, the Detroit version was the concept, while the production version will be shown at the Geneva Motor Show in March. GM said the Spark will go on sale in Europe in early 2010, but won’t be available in U.S. Chevy showrooms until early 2011.

Cadillac’s Converj (pictured above) has the same Voltec electric propulsion system that GM will roll out next year on the Chevy Volt, but the comparisons to the Chevy end there.

The Converj is a grand-touring coupe with a bold design that’s lacking on the Volt. The exterior draws a lot of its appearance from other newer Cadillac vehicles bearing the "art and science" design philosophy.

With room for four, the Converj "is intended to show how GM’s revolutionary Voltec electric propulsion technology can power a luxury coupe with a typically Cadillac 'no compromises’ design," the automaker said. "It enables up to 40 miles of gas- and emissions-free electric driving with extended-range capability of hundreds of miles."

The 2010 Buick LaCrosse full-size sedan is a completely redesigned car intended to build on the success of Buick’s Enclave large crossover vehicle, GM said.

Among its features will be available all-wheel drive, a variety of new technological options, and a choice of two fuel-efficient V-6 engines. The basis for the car’s design was the Buick Invicta concept introduced at the 2008 Beijing auto show. Buick is the most popular luxury brand in China.

Chevy’s redesigned 2010 Equinox will come with a choice of new engines, including a 2.4-liter, direct fuel-injected four cylinder that GM says will lead the compact crossover segment in fuel economy – ahead of the segment-leading RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Highway mileage is expected to be 30 mpg.

With seating for up to five, the Equinox has styling influenced by the newest version of the Chevy Malibu sedan.

The 2010 SRX is the second generation of Cadillac midsize luxury crossover, and it has been completely redesigned – becoming a rear-drive rather than front-drive vehicle (with optional all-wheel drive). Two high-tech V-6 engine choices will be available in the SRX, which will have room for five people – no third row will be offered.

Smaller and more carlike than the current SRX, the new model is quite similar in size and appearance to the segment-leading Lexus RX 350, which will be the Cadillac’s biggest competitor.

Also displayed in Detroit was the all-new 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon, a family-oriented version of the redesigned CTS sedan that debuted in 2007.

"Cadillac’s first-ever North American wagon is a progressive take on the classic wagon body style that delivers significant functionality and fuel efficiency, including up to an estimated 28 mpg highway," GM said.

Production of the wagon will begin this spring, and the cars will begin arriving at U.S. Cadillac dealerships by late spring or early summer. No prices have been announced yet.

"The dramatic design of the CTS Sport Wagon makes it a compelling alternative to SUVs and larger vehicles," said Mark McNabb, GM’s vice president for Cadillac.

The wagon is "in synch with the changing luxury market, and it just could be the right car in the right size to spark a re-emergence of wagons in North America," he said.

The five-passenger Sport Wagon will have 25 cubic feet of cargo space and there will be options such as a power tailgate and a rear panoramic sunroof.


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