2006 Los Angeles Show Index by TCC Team (1/4/2006)
Chrysler-VW Minivan Deal A Go
Two erstwhile rivals will team up on the development of a new line of minivans. Confirming long-running rumors, Chrysler will provide Volkswagen with a version of its next-generation people carrier. “The logic is simple,” VW’s global brand czar, Wolfgang Bernhard, told TheCarConnection.com. The German automaker has wanted a competitive minivan for its U.S.
product lineup, but determined it couldn’t develop one on its own. “So why not got to the market leader…and do something together,” he added. It helps, of course, that Bernhard was the number-two executive at DaimlerChrysler’s U.S.
subsidiary until two years ago. The program apparently also makes sense for Chrysler, which has watched the overall minivan market decline in recent years. As part of the deal, VW will now share in the development of the next minivan model, and absorb excess production capacity. Primary engineering will be handled by Chrysler, Bernhard explained, though Volkswagen will oversee design of what he describes as a completely unique exterior and interior. The VW version will be offered only as a long-wheelbase model, and precise sales targets are not yet being discussed. Production is set to begin late in 2007. Asked whether other joint ventures might be in the works, Bernhard hinted that “We are in constant discussions with our friends,” but he said no other projects have been approved at this point.
Saab Facing Product Drought
General Motors’ decision to abandon its short-lived alliance with Subaru could have unpleasant consequences for the U.S. automaker’s Swedish subsidiary. Subaru was not only providing Saab’s sporty 9-2X subcompact, but also would have provided the basics of the 9-6X crossover vehicle with its Tribeca SUV. “That’s gone” from the product list now, Saab General Manager Jay Spenchian told TheCarConnection.com. And there’s no short-term replacement, though Saab is pursuing an alternative to the “Saabaru” 9-6X. In the meantime, that leaves a big gap in Saab’s roll-out schedule. After the imminent release of an updated 9-5 sedan, the automaker will go at least two years without any major new addition to its lineup. “Getting through the next couple years is going to be a challenge,” Spenchian acknowledged. Brands “with new models get all the attention and buzz,” he said. Even so, Spenchian said he believes that Saab should be able to maintain momentum with the addition of special editions and the support of a new marketing program. It has also boosted its overall advertising budget by about 20 percent, devoting the extra money to regional dealer campaigns.
Meanwhile, Saab hopes to improve its buzz with the launch of an edgy new concept vehicle at the Geneva Motor Show in the spring. Referred to internally as the “Jet on Wheels,” it will emphasize the Swedish marque’ aerospace heritage — and is meant to suggest plans to give the brand a more distinctive design theme.
GMC Wins Design Challenge with Pad
GMC’s entry into the Los Angeles
show’s Design Challenge gives a new meaning to the idea of mobile living. The competition, part of the annual L.A. Auto Show, asked industry designers to come up with a vehicle best suited to the distinctive Los Angeles
lifestyle. Among the approaches to the theme, “An L.A. Adventure,” was Maybach’s three-wheeled dining room, and Honda’s mobile hot tub. One entrant even came up with a human-powered vehicle, perhaps reflecting the twin California
concerns with exercise and the environment. GMC’s Pad, a so-called LAV, or “Living Activity Vehicle,” took top honors in the competition. The massive machine was influenced by the high cost of housing in Southern California
. “We designed Pad as an urban loft,” said General Motors designer Frank Saucedo. As for the judges, “We chose this vehicle because it was the pinnacle of creativity,” said Stewart Reed, chairman of Transportation Design for the Art Center College of Design. “All the entrants were fantastic designs, but this design was the one which took the biggest risk.”