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The Changing Face of GM

Now that GM executives have released their survival plan, the question remains: “What happens to the General’s current—and future—lineup?”

 Now that GM executives have released their survival plan, the question remains: “What happens to the General’s current—and future—lineup?” Though insiders say the details are still in flux (e.g., the fate of Saturn—sale or shutdown?), some plans are coming into focus. Though executives wanted to kill off the Pontiac brand entirely, arrangements to combine the Buick, GMC and Pontiac brands under one roof were so far along they eliminated that possibility. As a result, Pontiac will be a more sharply focused performance niche brand with a limited number of vehicles drawn from around the GM empire.

In the near term, Pontiac will retain the G8 sedan and G8 ST sport truck, Solstice convertible and coupe, and G6. (It is unclear what will happen to the Vibe, which is built in cooperation with Toyota at the NUMMI plant in California, after the current generation is done, though the current model was introduced in the fall of ’07, so it is fairly fresh.) The G5, a mildly disguised Chevy Cobalt, and the G3, a copy of the Chevy Aveo, will disappear entirely from the lineup, but it is in 2012 that things really will begin to change. That is when the current Kappa platform (Solstice/Saturn Sky) is due for replacement. The Alpha platform—a small rear-drive architecture scheduled to debut in 2011 as the Cadillac BLS replacement—will have its job description expanded to include the next Solstice, a specialty coupe for Buick, and possibly a folding hardtop coupe for Cadillac. Some inside GM say the platform also could be used to build a rear-drive replacement for the G6.

Originally, the G8 was to be joined by a rear-drive Chevy Impala and an extended-wheelbase variant at Buick. However, tighter fuel economy standards forced the Chevy from the lineup, and Buick dealers didn’t respond well to a rear-drive car developed for the Chinese market. As a result, Chevrolet may stretch and widen the Malibu to replace the current Impala, and Buick is keeping the Lucerne on a front-drive platform for the time being. However, insiders say all future Buicks sold in North America will be designed and developed for the lucrative Chinese market, and then tuned for U.S. market tastes.

The G8 ST sport truck will be replaced by a production version of the GMC Denali XT concept within the next four years. GMC’s lineup will continue to shrink as the Lambda-based Acadia replaces the body-on-frame Envoy in 2009. There are no plans at present to shift full-size pickup and SUV production to the Chevrolet brand. If that happens, look for GMC to rebadge the Acadia as a Yukon. Cadillac is also planning a Lambda-based replacement for the Escalade.—CAS