Future: '08 Pontiac GTO Spared, But That's All
What the GM Future looks like
By Todd Lassa
Photography by the Manufacturer
General Motors's plans for a rear-drive Buick Velite sedan, convertible, or
anything else are officially dead. The murder also affects any rear-drive
Chevy coupe, Camaro, Chevelle, or otherwise. While development of a new Zeta
platform was scaled back months ago, the decision to pull the plug on these
new cars is much more recent. The only sub-Cadillac/ Corvette rear-drive
program going forth (beside Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky) is the next-gen
GTO, expected for the 2008 model year.
GM sources say the Holden's Zeta rear-drive platforms aren't considered
refined enough for rear-drive Buicks and Chevys to compete with the
Mercedes-based Chrysler and Dodge LX models or any other modern competitor.
Cadillac's Sigma platform, meanwhile, is too expensive for GM's mainstream
Meanwhile, GM is yet again reorganizing its divisions. Cadillac, Hummer, and
Saab continue as the company's premium troika (it considers Saab
near-luxury). Even though Hummer H2 sales plunged after its first year, with
the new H3 and more product on the way, the division is designed to thrive
with relatively low volume. Saturn continues as a warm-and-fuzzy Toyota,
Honda/Acura competitor as it moves upmarket.
GM plans to morph as many as possible of its individual Pontiac, Buick, and
GMC dealers into three-brand combos. A Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealer doesn't have
to be full-line, like Chevrolet, says marketing chief Mark LaNeve. The plan
is to shape GM into eight "tightly focused" brands. "If those brands aren't
focused, you don't need them," LaNeve adds.
But the reality looks set to fall short of the rhetoric. GMC, for example,
is relying on its expanding Denali line, which is really just a trim level,
to distinguish itself from Chevy trucks. And while Pontiac builds a largely
front-drive performance lineup and Buick builds a front-drive (except for
the Rainier) "quiet luxury" lineup, there's still loads of overlap. Yes, a
3.5-liter high-feature Buick LaCrosse is much different from a small-block
V-8 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP. But the high-volume sub-$25,000 LaCrosses and
Grand Prixs are distinguished by little more than sheetmetal and interior
All of which leads to the question: If Chrysler Group can manage to build
affordable, gotta-have rear-drive Chrysler 300s, Dodge Magnums, and Chargers
with optional V-8s, why can't the world's largest automaker compete?