Gm Has Big Plans for Chevrolet

by : Anthony Fontanelle

Car manufacturers are taking a global approach in the creation of concept vehicles. At the much-concluded auto show in New York's, different jaw-dropping auto concepts were unveiled. General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet brand, for one, has envisioned introducing just one minicar concept but the executives could not decide which of the three designs to forego. So the automaker introduced their three new concepts in the Big Apple.

"Everyone has a favorite," said Ed Welburn, GM's vice president of global design. "I was the one who said, 'Let's bring all three to New York.'" The concepts, which are designed in Inchon, South Korea and assembled in the United States and India, show how the largest automaker is taking a more global approach to vehicle manufacture.

"We went to the part of our global product development organization that knows how do to vehicles like these better than anyone else - Korea - and leveraged their skills and expertise to get these cars done," said Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. "This is a team game, and to get the team functioning at its most efficient level, you have to have all the players playing to their strengths."

The global approach employed by GM for its minicar architecture is more than just coming up with concepts and reliable auto parts like and offering them around the world. Designers include various regions' technical specifications in their plans and then devise ways to build the same exterior while changing some pieces under a vehicle's skin to meet different regulations, said David Lyon, GM's executive director of design for Asia Pacific.

Lyon added, "It's easier, for example, to design three bumpers to meet three countries' regulations at the beginning of the process than to re-engineer a vehicle for the United States after it's built for Europe. You get better designs when you're involved from the beginning."

The three minicars include the Beat, the Trax and the Groove. Each minicar maintains the renowned Chevrolet design cues like those round taillights and the dual port grille.

The Trax, a flat-faced 1-liter three-cylinder gas engine-powered micro SUV, offers an electric limited slip differential connected to an electric motor to drive the rear wheels thus paving way to an urban all-wheel drive system. The Beat, a three-door hatchback powered by turbo-charged three-cylinder gasoline engine offers front-wheel drive high performance. The Groove, which is also called the "Funkastalgia," is a five-door model with a 1-liter, 3-cylinder diesel engine to blend with its tougher appearance.

GM builds minicars in other markets but has not determined if there is a strong enough business to bring the little racers to the United States, Lutz said. "We have a very strong focus on small cars in the current and future portfolio for the U.S. The real question is will we build these types of vehicles in the U.S.? Historically, these types of cars haven't done well here. But clearly, things are changing," Lutz noted.

The small car market will continue to grow and it would bode well for GM to make the minicar concepts a reality, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst. "That's kind of the vehicle that would be a success," Toprak said. "It would really appeal to the younger market, which is where GM really needs that recognition and brand appeal."