BAY HARBOR, Mich. — Internally, they accept been labeled crossover action vans. Externally, Accepted Motors will accredit to them as family-utility vehicles.
Whatever the terminology, the Saturn Relay and Buick Terraza minivans – forth with the soon-to-be-released Chevrolet Uplander and Pontiac Montana SV6 – accept one bright focus for GM: Resuscitation.
GM’s U.S. minivan sales accept been apathetic back compared with those of the Dodge Grand Caravan, Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey – the big antagonism in the segment.
While all-embracing minivan sales in the United States are up about 5.8 percent through September – from 812,462 in 2003 to 859,330 – GM minivans accept never absolutely bent the buzz. During this about-face year for GM, minivans accept alone 15.0 percent, from 150,160 units in the aboriginal nine months of 2003 to 127,588 this year.
GM minivans additionally accept absent 3.7 percent of their U.S. bazaar allotment this year – from 18.5 percent to 14.8 percent.
The new crossover vans are a attempt in a altered direction, a mix of SUV and minivan. All the new models arise with sliding doors, lots of cupholders, basement for seven and folding seats. But they additionally are accessible with 17-inch auto and advancing administration in front.
The ambition is clear: If you can’t exhausted them, try to be different.
“We are not activity to claiming the Chrysler (group),” says GM Vice Chairman Robert Lutz. “We are not targeting 600,000 sales a year. But we’d like to be bigger than the past.”
Lutz says GM abstruse from its analysis that it ability be able to action an alternative. “Even in our clinics,” he says, “when we asked bodies if they admired the style, I will acquaint you it was split.”
Analyst Doug Scott of NOP Automotive in Southfield, Mich., says that ability not be such a bad thing.
“When you anticipate of minivans, you don’t anticipate of GM,” Scott says. “And that’s the accessible acumen as well. Given GM’s almost anemic presence, maybe activity in a altered administration and camouflage them as SUVs ability work. Unless their articles can trump the ‘big three’ – Caravan, Sienna and Odyssey – it’s apparently the appropriate avenue to take.”
Saturn said it hopes the Relay steals its barter from the entry-level minivan segment, in which added than bisected of the buyers are purchasing minivans for the aboriginal time.
Buick said it wants a allotment of the exceptional minivan segment, one of the fastest-growing – and best assisting – genitalia of the industry.
CJ Fraleigh, accepted administrator of Buick and Pontiac-GMC, says the exceptional end of the minivan bazaar represents about one-quarter of the segment’s sales.
The abject amount for the front-wheel-drive Terraza will be $28,825, and the top-of-the-line CXL starts at $31,885. As a comparison, a top-level Chrysler Town & Country Limited starts at $35,750. A Honda Odyssey Touring minivan starts at $34,495. All prices accommodate destination.
Saturn and Buick say they benchmarked the best minivans as advertence credibility for the GMT201 platform, the aftereffect to the GMT200 minivan platform.
Avoiding the M-word
But Saturn and Buick accept they can address to those buyers who are annoyed of cutting the minivan tag.
During a barrage accident for both vehicles, Scott Horn, Saturn’s barter business manager, said: “There’s aloof a assertive association with the chat ‘minivan.’ Some bodies told us they won’t drive one. We are aggravating to alloy the appearance of an SUV with functionality.”
As a result, back Saturn begins business the Relay in December, the chat “minivan” won’t arise in Saturn ads. Horn said “family-utility vehicles” is a bigger bet.
Lloyd Biermann, Buick’s business manager, says “crossover action van” additionally is a achievability with the Terraza, a agent that will be marketed anon at families – “people and accommodation for stuff.”
“I don’t anticipate ‘minivan’ is a bedraggled word,” Biermann says.
“Part of the acumen we chose ‘crossover action van’ was aloof to get our own sales association cerebration abnormally about the term.”
By JASON STEIN | Automotive News
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