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GM Planning Lots More Crossovers


 

 

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General Motors Corp. will double the number of vehicles it offers in the crossover segment in the next four years, and the crossover push will include hybrid gasoline-electric powertrains — provided customers want them.

 

The list of new vehicles includes a long-delayed crossover that will be smaller than the current Saturn Vue, as well as a trio of new crossovers coming to GM’s mid-scale brands: the Saturn Outlook, Buick Enclave, and GMC Acadia. The latter two names have not been officially confirmed by General Motors but have been reported byDetroit sources.

Robert Lutz, GM vice chairman and product development guru, says that the automaker expects to roll out seven new crossovers before the end of the decade. The first of the new breed of crossovers will be available for public inspection at the North American International Auto Show in January, he added.

Crossovers will account for sales of 2.5 million vehicles in the United States this year, and that total is expected to grow to 3.5 million units by 2010, according Ron Pniewski, GM vice president for global portfolio planning.

Taking on dominant Japanese

 

The crossover segment originally was dominated by Japanese carmakers such as Toyota and Honda, with vehicles such as the Highlander and Pilot. The market share of Japanese automakers within the segment has slipped as GM and the other American carmakers have pushed in the segment, noted Lutz, and the Japanese edge in the segment will diminish further, he predicted. During September, GM, which now has seven crossovers including the Pontiac Torrent, Buick Rendezvous, Saturn Vue, Cadillac SRX, and Chevrolet Equinox and HHR, sold more crossover vehicles than any other manufacturer, Lutz said.

 

GM already holds 14.4 percent of the market for crossovers — vehicles with sport-utility-like exteriors and passenger-car characteristics, such as unibody construction and automobile-like handling.

Lutz said the new V-6 engines GM is preparing for the new crossovers are more efficient than the V-6 engines offered by the company’s Japanese competitors.

As for hybrids, the larger crossovers on the drawing board will be designed to handle the new two-mode hybrid GM is developing and plans to have available in 2007. Lutz also said the decision to make hybrid powertrains available in new crossover models could give GM the potential of building up to one million hybrids by the start of the next decade if the market demands them.

“GM is in the midst of an aggressive rollout of new cars, and we are starting the introduction of a whole new lineup of more refined, more fuel-efficient full-size trucks,” Lutz said. “But we also see great opportunity in strengthening and expanding our family of crossover vehicles.”

In addition to new crossovers from GMC, Saturn, and Buick, which will be comparable to today’s mid-size sport utility vehicle, GM also is planning a new family of crossovers that will be smaller than the popular Chevrolet Equinox, Pniewski said. Pniewski would not say when the little SUV will go on sale.

 

“This is all going to blur, and the manufacturer who has the instincts to get into the right segments and can hit sort of the sweet nodal spot of demand is going to be successful,” Lutz said.

Success in the crossover segment is critical for U.S. automakers, who are hurting from falling SUV sales. George Pipas, Ford’s U.S. sales analysis manager, recently said crossovers are expected to outsell SUVs for the first time next year, and automakers are bracing for that change.

 

 
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