By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- A more powerful engine, some high-tech toys and edgier styling will spice up the latest versions of the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire.
John Tarr, inventory control manager for Greenwood Chevrolet in Austintown, said he's eager for the 2003 Cavaliers to arrive in late August or early September. He saw a pre-production model recently.
"It's much sportier and more sleek," he said.
Final preparations are being made now for the model changeover at the General Motors' Lordstown Assembly Plant, which is expected to begin making the 2003 models in August.
GM made more changes than normal as it tries to maintain consumer demand for the aging models. The current design was introduced in the 1995 model year, and General Motors is planning to launch a replacement lineup in the 2005 model year.
Prices for the 2003 Cavaliers and Sunfires haven't been released. GM has used $3,000 rebates to spur sales of the cars in recent months. Tarr said he expects rebates to continue on the new models, although not as high as $3,000.
Catching the eye
Gwen Knapp, a Chevrolet spokeswoman, said changes to the front and back of the cars give them different design lines that will be noticeable.
"It's still curvacious, but it's edgy," she said.
Bob Bevilacqua, new car sales manager at Jim Pace Pontiac in Niles, said that the changes aren't drastic but he thinks they are enough to spur sales.
Knapp said GM also wants to boost interest among younger buyers by offering more high-tech options on the cars.
Buyers can choose to have satellite radio, which provides 100 channels of mostly commercial-free programming for about $10 a month.
They also can have GM's OnStar, which uses satellites and wireless technology to provide driving directions, emergency assistance, stock quotes, e-mail and a variety of other services.
GM also upgraded the engines of the cars by making the Ecotec two-liter engine standard. It debuted in the Cavalier and Sunfire lineup last year, but was an option on most models.
Besides providing more power, the engine helps the car have a quieter and smoother ride, Knapp said.
Though Tarr and Bevilacqua said they are excited about the changes for 2003, they are eager for the replacements of the Cavalier and Sunfire, which haven't been named.
They said the replacements are expected to generate more interest in GM small cars.
They also think a commitment to build the cars in Lordstown will spur more car sales locally. GM is planning a $500 million renovation of the assembly plant and $230 million upgrade of the adjacent fabrication plant, but the projects haven't received final approval.