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Mostly Sky but some general kappa info on production. They make you register so I copied the article (sorry for the length)...

Posted on Tue, Feb. 22, 2005

Saturn rising

GM hopes new sports car will help increase showroom traffic and sell cars.

By Akweli Parker

Inquirer Staff Writer

Saturn, the division that General Motors Corp. hatched 15 years ago as a "different kind of car company," will soon try to get across a new message:

Our cars are cool now.

Making the point, GM hopes, will be the Saturn Sky, a low-slung two-seat sports car built to invigorate the slumping, money-losing brand.

The Sky goes on sale - for about $25,000 - in 2006, and will be built in Wilmington, where GM has begun retooling a plant that was shut down last June amid slowing sales of Saturn's L-300 sedan. In all, Saturn sold 212,000 vehicles in 2004, down 22 percent from the previous year.

The Wilmington plant also will build the Pontiac Solstice, which will use the same "Kappa" platform as the Sky. Production is scheduled to start first on the Solstice this summer; the Sky is to roll off the line starting next year.

The Wilmington assembly plant will be the exclusive maker of both roadsters. It will also produce a version for export, likely to be marketed under GM's Opel brand.

"It's certainly significant," said Judy McKinney-Cherry, Delaware's director of economic development. "We're pleased that we have the Kappa platform at this plant, because it gives us the opportunity to have several models."

Having a diverse product base and higher capacity helps insulate a plant against shutdowns, she said.

At least two other companies - Walker International and another she did not name - will be located nearby to supply the sprawling plant.

In 2003, the plant on Boxwood Road employed nearly 2,200. That had dropped to 1,200 before the plant was closed.

The plant, which has built cars since 1947, underwent a $550 million upgrade in 1996 to produce Saturns.

The Delaware economic development department estimates the plant's annual economic impact on the state at $315 million, including salaries, tax revenue, employee housing and spending.

GM spent $50 million upgrading the plant for the new cars.

GM spokeswoman Nancy Sarpolis said workers were being called back to learn new building methods, including a metal-working technique called hydroforming, which uses high-pressure fluid to create the cars' swoopy body lines. Some workers have been paid their full salaries during the shutdown as part of a "jobs bank" program, doing volunteer work in the community on GM's behalf.

Initially, at least, the GM plant will have just one shift. Nonmanagement employees are represented by United Auto Workers Local 435.

Sarpolis said the plant would employ 900 to 1,000 people "when they are fully up and running."

General Motors is not yet saying how many of each car it expects to make at the plant each year, but it concedes they are low-volume vehicles. In the small market for roadsters, Sky and Solstice will compete directly with the diminutive Honda S2000 and Mazda Miata and indirectly with a crowd of other sports cars.

"There's a question mark about how much you can split the pie," said Mark Perleberg, lead auto expert at vehicle appraisal service NADAguides. com.

Toyota is discontinuing two of its sporty models, the Celica and the MR2 roadster, which Perleberg said raised the question, "Is there a market for a lot of those cars?"

Auto research firm CSM Worldwide estimated Saturn would sell up to 20,000 Skies a year.

Unquestionably, the car is a departure from the plain-Jane image of Saturn, which has drawn praise in the past for its no-haggle buying policy and generous customer service, if not for its actual cars. They are considered dependable and competent, but never did stand out.

With Saturn, "You always thought of 'the bland sort of company,' " Perleberg said.

The Sky's looks, finish and apparent quality have won raves from auto-industry analysts, frequenters of Saturn Internet message boards, and regular folks since its unveiling last month. GM has not allowed independent test drives yet.

It was on display at the recent Philadelphia Auto Show.

"The biggest aspect, at least in the early reactions, is the design," said Jeff Brodoski, an analyst with research firm J.D. Power & Associates. "In today's market, going more out on a limb and taking risk is more necessary."

The Sky will lend some of its physical attributes, called styling cues, to other cars in Saturn's future lineup as well, Saturn spokesman Mike Morrissey said.

"Everything they've announced so far has been very positive for GM and for the brand as a whole," Brodoski said.

Under the hood is a 2.4-liter Ecotec engine, GM's workhorse four-cylinder, rated at 170 horsepower. It is mated to a five-speed manual or automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels.

Saturn's aim is to create a "halo" effect with the car: Not everyone will be able to afford one, and people with children may not even want one because of its cramped space, but its desirability is supposed to wash over the carmaker's sedans, SUVs and minivans as well.

"You think of Chrysler building the Viper," Perleberg said. While the 10-cylinder modern muscle car was wildly impractical and expensive for most consumers, "it was a reason to get people into the Dodge showroom."

If the Saturn brand is going to be profitable, it will be on the backs of more mainstream cars and SUVs. Saturn's new-for-2006 Aura, a sporty-looking sedan unveiled at auto shows this year, will try to fill that need in a non-boring way.

Saturn loyalists might not appreciate all the changes.

"Unfortunately, some of the features, such as polymer panels, are going to go away," said Charlie Eickmeyer, administrator of the SaturnFans.com Web site, referring to the dent-resistant Saturn body panels that GM says must go because they cost too much.

But, Eickmeyer added, "overall, the changes are good for Saturn... . They're a much more expressive design, a much more moving design."

While Saturn today has just three offerings - its Ion compact coupe and sedan, the Vue mid-size SUV, and the Relay minivan - Brodoski, the J.D. Power analyst, said that, with the expanded lineup, Saturn's unit sales could increase by 50 percent in the next three years or so.

The changes also provide a chance for Saturn to position itself as a classier brand, filling holes in GM's portfolio, he said.

"Obviously, with the demise of Oldsmobile," Brodoski said, "that leaves room for other brands like Buick and Saturn to move up."
 

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This is the first time I've heard GM admit that the Honda S2000 will be a DIRECT competitor. That's inspiring. They mentioned targeting the S2000's handling. They must believe they've hit the target. And the FI motor must be targeting the S2000's as well.

VERY interesting post, mceb. Nice job.
 

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mceb,

I just re-read your post. They claim an expected Sky production of 20,000 units. With the Solstice expected to sell the same, that is 40,000 units per year - a very high number for 2 seat sports cars from one manufacturer. The looks are night and day different, but the astute buyer will know the Solstice and Sky are the same under the skin. Along with concerns about the small trunk and awkward top is 40,000 units at all realistic?
 

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Frustrated

:willy: Just received rather thick envelope of info from GM. Great but all there was as a book with the new Corvett on the cover and the whole book is about new GM car alll butttttt the Solstice. There is even a special extra smaller brouchur all about the Sky. All the specs and a big picture that folds out. Realizing that I had asked for information on the Solstice there is a piece of paper in all of this other junk saying "Thank you for your interest in Pontiac vehicles. You'll notice we've enclosed information for the vehicles you requested with the exception of the 2006 Pontiac Solstice. Since the 2006 Solstice promises the open-air thrills and freedom of roadster driving, we felt that it deserves special attention. You will recieve Soltice information soon." Can you believe this? It is so very frustrating. What in the world is going on with this car? Don't they realize that they are loosing customers this way. :leaving: :brentil: :rant:
 

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jimbo said:
mceb,

I just re-read your post. They claim an expected Sky production of 20,000 units.
I noticed that too, we've heard 10,000 for Sky. Could have been a mixup with reporter (as you say 20k was Solstice #s). Wouldn't be the first time they've published wrong info :willy:

As for competition Lutz is also throwing in Z4 into the mix in the Esquire article (2.5i).
 

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jimbo said:
This is the first time I've heard GM admit that the Honda S2000 will be a DIRECT competitor. That's inspiring. They mentioned targeting the S2000's handling. They must believe they've hit the target. And the FI motor must be targeting the S2000's as well.

VERY interesting post, mceb. Nice job.
They've admitied it was their target for performance variables such as handling and steering, but you're right this is the first time I can think of a mention about actually competing with it.
 

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Naming the S2000 may have been a little bit of conjecture on the part of the author. He doesn’t really come right out and say that GM claims it will be a direct competitor. If GM told him they were benchmarking the S2000 for the Kappa car’s performance, he may have drawn his own conclusions.

GM will need more power to directly compete with the S2000. An F/I motor would certainly do it. However, the base just doesn’t have the engine numbers, even if it handles in the same ballpark.
 
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