LORDSTOWN GM exec reveals ideas for new car
A hatchback and a minivan-like vehicle could be added to Chevrolet's small-car lineup.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
LORDSTOWN -- General Motors is considering adding a hatchback and a minivan-like model to the small-car lineup that will replace the Chevrolet Cavalier.
Ron Zarrella, president of GM North America, told the Automotive News that some variety may be needed to add pizzazz to the entry-level offerings. He also said GM is considering eliminating the Pontiac Sunfire.
The Cavalier and Sunfire are built at GM's Lordstown Assembly Plant and at a plant in Mexico. GM has said it intends to introduce a new small car in about 2004 but hasn't said where it will build them. A name hasn't been announced.
Management and union officials at the Lordstown plant have put together a plan that calls for the redesign and upgrade of the plant as part of receiving the new model. GM officials are expected to decide soon on the work, which could cost about $500 million.
Opel's role: Zarrella said in this week's edition of the auto industry trade publication that Opel, GM's European arm, is developing the new small car. GM is using its global Delta platform so that all of its small cars have the same underpinnings, which will reduce costs.
Zarrella didn't get into specifics about the design but said it would be somewhat similar in styling with the Opel Astra. The base model would be a sedan, he said.
While hatchbacks haven't fared well in the United States recently, there may be demand if the styling is right, he said.
The other variation being considered is what the industry calls a monocab, as opposed to a sedan which has a hood, cab and trunk as distinct segments. Zarrella said the styling would have to make consumers think of the vehicle as something other than a small minivan.
Vibe: Ending the Sunfire is being considered because of the introduction of the Pontiac Vibe sport wagon early next year. Zarrella said GM thinks the Vibe will take a big part of the entry-level market.
He said the Cavalier and Sunfire are scheduled for an exterior redesign for the 2003 model year, which will be out next year. He said the replacement models are likely to be out two or three years after that.
The Lordstown plant employs nearly 5,000 hourly and salaried workers, while an adjacent fabrication plant employs nearly 3,000.