2006 Los Angeles Show Index by TCC Team (1/4/2006)
Solstice Goes Turbo
2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP
Though it’s barely begun to satisfy pent-up demand for the hot new Pontiac Solstice roadster, General Motors will add a second, high-performance version to the lineup. The turbocharged Solstice GXP will bump horsepower to 260 and torque to 260 lb-ft, both about 50 percent more than the base two-seater. That will be enough, company officials declared during an LA preview, to launch the Solstice GXP from 0-60 in less than 5.0 seconds. The performance version should account for at least ten percent of total Solstice sales, though Pontiac
could bump production up as high as 30 percent, said GM’s marketing czar, Mark LaNeve. Struggling to increase capacity for one of the few successes in the current Pontiac lineup, the automaker believes it can no build as many as 20,000 copies of Solstice this year, along with as many as 10,000 of the slightly more upscale Sky roadster, which will be sold by the sibling Saturn division.
Yukon, Aveo Are Long and Short of GM Show
GM pulled the wraps off a total of seven new models and variants during this year’s L.A. Auto Show, and they covered the size and performance spectrum. At one extreme was the Chevrolet Aveo, the smallest and least expensive model in GM’s domestic lineup. The ’07 model is longer, wider, and taller than the original Aveo. It features fold-flat rear seats and is the only car in its segment to win a five-star crash rating. It also delivers 35 mpg, something GM hopes will gain it some attention at a time when car buyers are once again putting fuel economy on their shopping list.
2007 GMC Yukon XL
At the other end of the size spectrum, GM used L.A.
as a backdrop for the launch of its two largest SUVs, the all-new GMC Yukon XL and Chevrolet’s next-generation Suburban. The massive utes are 20 inches longer than full-size models, such as the Chevy Tahoe. They can tow up to 8000 pounds, and yet, with their new 5.3-liter engines, should get up to 20 mpg on the highway, according to GM. That’s because they feature GM’s new Displacement-on-Demand system, which shuts off half the engine’s cylinders when power demands are low. Helping in the introduction duties, Tonight Show
host Jay Leno pointed out that the XL and Suburban can both carry up to nine passengers. “I think I’m going to take eight of my friends up to BrokebackMountain
,” laughed Leno.
Leno Will Pace Daytona
“I don’t do this for the money. I want to drive the car,” explained big-jawed comedian Leno. With a personal collection of cars said to number in the 100s, Leno is a frequent participant in auto show events, especially if it gets him a ride in something special. In this case, he confided, he’ll get to drive a special-edition Corvette Z06, which will serve as the pace car at this year’s Daytona 500 NASCAR race. Ironically, Leno was chauffeured in for the auto-show event. “They let me drive 200 miles an hour at Daytona,” he gaped, “but they won’t let me drive 20 feet up onto the stage.”
GM Rethinking Employee Discounts
Jay Leno and Mark LaNeve
In retrospect, General Motors’ much-ballyhooed employee discount pricing program was probably not a very good, or effective idea, according to GM marketing director Mark LaNeve. It gained the automaker a lot of sales — at least initially — but probably hurt in the long run, said LaNeve. The biggest problem, he said, is that the high-profile incentives diverted attention from GM’s new products and their benefits, making it seem like the automaker could only sell its vehicles with big incentives. “It didn’t build any equity in the brand,” added a LaNeve associate, Jeff Kuhlman. With the launch of the 2006 model year, GM has been trying to trim back on incentives and put more emphasis on product attributes, noted LaNeve, during a media “scrum” at the L.A. Auto Show. Its new value-pricing strategy has led to reduce sticker prices on a number of new and updated vehicles, including the Chevrolet HHR and Cadillac DTS, he noted. LaNeve added that along with the employee pricing program, GM’s product message has gotten lost in the media coverage of the automaker’s ongoing financial problems. And for that, he admitted, “We have nobody else to blame but ourselves.”
GM Doesn’t Want to Yield Share
During his keynote appearance at the L.A. Auto Show, Ford’s President of the Americas, Mark Fields, acknowledged Ford doesn’t believe it will regain the sort of share it held a decade ago. He also said the idea of a Big Three has been supplanted by a Big Six, which includes large imports like Toyota. “I’d agree there’s a Big 6 or even 7,” echoed GM Vice President Mark LaNeve, during his L.A.show appearance on Thursday. But the General Motors executive stressed that “we’re not willing to concede share.” Not current levels, anyway, though the dream of regaining levels of 30, or even 29 percent seem out of the question, LaNeve continued. “It doesn’t take a lot” to regain lost ground, he insisted, pointing to the success rival Chrysler has had, thanks to its 300 sedan. What is a more “natural share” for GM? LaNeve suggested something around 26 percent, adding “we’re going to fight like hell to retain that.”