RAW NOTES: GM’S Massive Media Blitz

August 12th, 2009 at 1:25pm

Even though I hate to see car companies get into to big-time financial trouble, there’s always one good thing that comes out of all the turmoil.  As they try to claw their way back they have to convince the world that they’ve got great products coming.  And that means they have to open up their design studios and show us their future product.

Yesterday General Motors held a massive media blitz.  You’ve already heard the big news that came out of that event: the Chevrolet Volt will have an EPA city fuel economy rating of 230 miles per gallon.  But GM also pulled the wraps off quite a number of new models that will be out in the next four years, and dropped a few more tidbits of interesting news.  Here’s a verbatim copy of my notes as I wrote them into my notebook.

CHEVROLET: they showed us almost their full lineup of cars including, the Spark which will be made in Korea but will not show up in the American market until 2011. 

The new Aveo was on display.  What a massive styling improvement!  The overall dimensions of the car looks slightly larger than the current model, and the front end almost has a Ford Fiesta-ish look to it.

Chevy confirmed that the Camaro convertible is going into production.  It will be in showrooms in the second quarter of 2011.

Surprisingly, the next-generation Malibu was available for us to look at even though it will not be in showrooms until sometime in 2012.  It is a much more sophisticated looking design, with more swoops and curves to it.  The front end has an Audi-ish look to it, particularly the grille.  There is a hint of the Camaro in the rear quarter and sail panel, while the trunk features a “Bangle-butt” design. It will have a new interior, new powertrains, better aerodynamics and less mass.  The styling makes the new Malibu look at least $5,000 more expensive than the current model, even though I bet the sticker price does not go up.

CADILLAC: Clay Dean, one of the top designers at Cadillac, said that it takes three generations of new product and design to turn a brand around. He says that with the first generation, if the product looks good, you’ll start to attract people’s attention.  With the second generation, if you make it better, people will start to believe that you can keep it going.  And if you get it right with the third-generation, the public will finally start to believe that the brand has turned around. Most of Cadillac’s products are still in their second generation.

Cadillac showed off a new, small premium coupe called the ATS that is directly targeted at the BMW 3- series. While the styling is reminiscent of the CTS, it is not based on the CTS platform.  This is a RWD car that will offer AWD as an option. Presumably a sedan will be coming at some point, too.

There is a new full-size sedan coming they referred to as the XTS that replaces the STS and DTS.  It is a FWD car that will offer AWD as an option.  I’m told it’s based on the Lamda platform, the same as the Enclave, Acadia, and Traverse.  It is a big sedan with a very bold front end, sweeping side lines, a DLO outlined with thick brushed metal, and sail panels that sweep deep back onto the trunk.  The vertical tail lamps stand up and away from the body in such a way that they almost form small tailfins.  Three different GM design studios competed on this design, from the US, the UK and China. Cadillac chose the front end design from the U. K., but the body side and rear coming from the US studio.

BUICK: we were shown four new products, including a midsize sedan based on the Opel Insignia.  Buick calls this more of a sporty sedan, and more interestingly it does not have port holes on the fenders or the hood, though the Buick designers admitted there’s been great debate as to whether this car should have port holes or not.

Buick also showed a premium compact sedan, and a compact crossover.  Intriguingly it even has a smaller crossover that they’re referring to as a baby Enclave. But since the beautiful flowing lines of the Enclaves would not look good on a vehicle for small it has what I would describe as funky or jaunty styling.

GMC:  the only new vehicle that we saw coming from this brand is a five passenger crossover that looks like a smaller version of the Chevrolet Orlando. But Susan Docherty, who runs both the Buick and GMC brands, did mention it in her presentation that GMC is the most profitable brand at General Motors!

GM PPO:  PPO stands for Pre-Production Operations. It’s where GM builds up prototypes of future products, but builds them precisely how they’ll be assembled in mass production.  Right now this facility is building 74 Chevrolet Volt’s at the rate of two a day. So far about 22 cars have been completed.  Line workers from the Detroit Hamtramck plant are being trained at this facility on how to assemble the Volt.

One interesting tidbit that we learned about the Volt is that the batteries are only brought up to about 80% charge, never 100%.  It turns out that batteries don’t like to be all charged up with nowhere to go; it reduces their longevity.  Also the batteries are never discharged below 30% or so, for the same reason.

One of the most interesting parts of this press conference is that the day before GM brought in the media to show them all these products it also brought in 100 different consumers from around the country.  They chose these people from those who had written letters to the company, or who left comments on the “Tell Fritz” part of the GM Reinvention website, including some who are critics of the company.  GM says it took notes to capture all of their feedback and the idea is to pass this information along to the people who can do something about it.

8 Comments to “RAW NOTES: GM’S Massive Media Blitz”

  1. Gary Emling Says:

    OK, I’ll display my ignorance. What the heck is a “bangle-butt”? And as long as I’m confessing, what’s a “DLO”?

  2. Jim G Says:

    John

    Very informative synopsis. Thank you for sharing.

    Jim

  3. Joe Turcotte Says:

    Thanks John,

    Good journalism will help GM’s imagine. I would love to see the 2012 version of the Malibu.

  4. Edwin Benson Says:

    I have been trying to find pictures of the XTS on the internet, but all I can find is a picture of the SIXTEEN concept with the notation that the XTS is based on the SIXTEEN. When can we see some pics? I loved the SIXTEEN, and would love to see a large, classically beautiful, and yet moderc Cadillac on the road again.

  5. Ken Post Says:

    I am now driving a 2008 Malibu LuTZ. What is the chance of seeing a pic of the 2012 ‘BU’?
    You have me drooling and that really isn’t fair.

  6. John McElroy Says:

    @ Edwin: you won’t find photos of the XTS because Cadillac is not releasing them, and they prohibited anyone in the press from taking photos of it. In fact, that’s true for all the future product that GM showed us in their media blitz.

  7. George Rossow Says:

    John,Any news about what GM will do with the next new Corvette or when? Do you have a time when the press will see it?

  8. Episode 210 - Ford’s Smart Charger, Magna One Step Closer To Opel, Heavy-Duty Hybrid Credits - Autoline Daily Says:

    [...] Ken Post saw our report on the John’s Journal channel of our website about GM’s future products and wrote in to ask, “Sure would like to see a picture of the new Malibu. Why will it take until 2012 to get it to market?” [...]