California Autos Examiner

Monday, November 26, 2007

GM Delta II: One Platform To Rule Them All

I've spoken a lot about GM's forthcoming Delta platform replacement, primarily focusing on the Chevrolet MPV-7 that will slot beneath the Traverse crossover. This week Automotive News has published an article about the new platform and how it will smooth out a lot of kinks in GM's global platform sharing model. The problem is this, each time GM has used Delta, in vehicles such as the Opel Astra and Chevrolet Cobalt, it modified the platform so that Opels could not be produced on a Chevrolet assembly line. With the new platform, let's call it Delta II, a next generation Opel Zafira could roll down the line right behind a Chevrolet MPV-7. GM could take advantage of exchange rates, such as exporting Opels manufactured in Michigan or quickly add production from another factory if demand takes a sudden upswing.

Automotive News cites a number of vehicles projected to be spawned from Delta II:

Chevrolet Volt
Minivan-like vehicle for Chevrolet in 2009
Seven passenger minivan that will replace the Opel Zafira
All-new Saturn Astra in 2009 or 2010
Daewoo-badged model for South Korea
Chevrolet for Europe
Premium Buick for China
Unnamed models for Africa and South America
Possible Saab model

Chevrolet really doesn't like the "minivan-like" moniker, describing its future vehicle as being more crossover/sporty in nature. Certainly the minivan sector's spiral of death has something to due with GM's sensitivity. As for the Saturn Astra, I really get concerned with quotes such as this one from vehicle line director Peter Mertens

"Regional brands and models will be differentiated by powertrains, safety features, standard equipment and chassis tuning. If you drive them next to each other, you will certainly see there is a difference in chassis performance between an Opel and a Chevy or between a Buick and a Chevy. Each is engineered to compete against very specific competitors."
Specifically my worry is that North American versions of vehicles such as the Astra will be decontented. For example, the Saturn Astra has Express-Down, Express-Up power windows while it's upmarket brother the Aura does not. This is just one disparity that comes readily to mind, but a fact is that Europeans are willing to pay more for their small cars. The MINI is starting to change automakers' perceptions of what Americans are willing to pay for, but I'm quite concerned that the domesticated next gen Astra will become a stripped, sedan version of its former well equipped, hatchback self. I'd like to be proven wrong on that account.

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