2005 Frankfurt Auto Show Index by TCC Team (9/5/2005)
Lutz Lets Loose in Frankfurt
GM’s vice chairman set out to set the record straight on a variety of issues following the Opel reveal on Tuesday. For one thing, he told reporters, the automaker’s new rear-drive Zeta platform “is not dead or cancelled.” Well, not exactly. The original version was, indeed, scrapped a few months back because “we did a lot of not-smart things…that didn’t make business sense. We accepted the delay.” As originally planned, GM’s Australian subsidiary, Holden, will play the lead in developing the revised Zeta platform. But it is less and less likely that it will be able to export cars based on Zeta, at least to the United States. The Australian dollar’s gain on the U.S. dollar “pretty much cancels your profits margin,” Lutz lamented, so “exports to the U.S. don’t look real promising at this point.” But there will still be opportunities for Holden to ship product to other markets, such as the Middle East.
Lutz was more inclined to agree with recent reports in TheCarConnection.com suggesting that the auto industry – and GM in particular – will suffer a period of “payback” as the result of the recent employee-pricing incentive programs. “It’s logical to assume some payback,” he said, noting the sharp 13-percent downturn in GM’s August sales. Complicating matters, GM dealers are emerging from the sales campaign with emptied lots. At the end of September, said Lutz, he expects GM’s U.S.retailers to have just 860,000 vehicles in inventory, compared with 1.3 million at the end of September 2004. Add to that the impact of Hurricane Katrina and soaring oil prices and, admitted Lutz, “I would be foolish not to be worried.”
Even so, he cautioned against making any rash decisions to revise corporate product plans. If fuel prices settle back to $2.20 to $2.50 a gallon, Lutz said he would not expect significant changes in consumer buying habits. There’s little doubt that the giant automaker is increasing its work on hybrid products. What’s less certain is what role diesels will play in GM’s long-term U.S. strategy. With extremely tough new emissions
standards coming, Lutz cautioned, there’s no assurance manufacturers will be able to come up with cost-effective, customer-friendly solutions. A solution, he asserted, “doesn’t exist now and anyone who tells you it does is being disingenuous.”
General Motors' various divisions rolled out a slew of new products for the European market on Tuesday, “a clear expression of a less analytical and more emotion-driven company,” declared GM’s European chief executive, Fritz Henderson. The debuts included a new Saab 9-5 wagon and the affordable new Chevrolet Aveo. The U.S.-based Cadillac division brought the production of its BLS sedan to the Frankfurt show. The BLS is the smallest product in the Caddy line-up and, at least for now, exchange rates will keep it from making the jump to the U.S.market. Sharing its platform with other front-drive models, including the Saab 9-3, the front-drive BLS will be offered with a range of gasoline engines, as well as a new Cadillac diesel. BLS will go up against European luxury models, such as the Audi A4.
Opel Vectra GTS OPC and Antara GTC
On the sporty side, GM’s German-based Opel subsidiary introduced the third model from its expanding OPC ( OpelPerformanceCenter
) line. With its black mesh grille, 18-inch alloy wheels, and trapezoidal exhaust pipes, the Vectra GTS OPC will be a visual, as well as a performance stand-out. It features a turbocharged, 2.8-liter V-6 making 255 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, enough to launch from 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph) in less than seven seconds, and to hit a top speed of 161.5 mph, according to Opel. The automaker also retuned the OPC’s suspension to handle the additional power.
For family buyers, GM gave show-goers a sneak peek at what will soon become a trans-Atlantic crossover. The Opel Antara GTC concept is a good indication of what’s coming both in Europe and in the U.S.
, where it will serve as the replacement for the current Saturn Vue model, according to Bryan Nesbitt, executive director of GM Design Europe. In concept form, the Antara overlays a striking, coupe-like silhouette atop a more functional, two-box crossover-ute layout. Under the hood, it features a 212-hp twin-turbocharged, 1.9-liter in-line four engine. Opel estimates it could hit a top speed of 210 km/h and accelerated from zero to 100 km/h in around eight seconds. Expect the three-door show car to get another two doors in production trim. And the U.S.
version will be “virtually identical” to Opel’s, Nesbitt revealed. As part of its revival plan for the struggling Saturn, GM has decided to use the division as the American outlet for Opel designs and technology.