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Here's my "dear GM" letter. Given that we are half way through 2004 all ready here's my timeline for the next year that I'd like to see (this is the part where I tell a multi-national corporation how to do their business :thumbs ).

Summer 2004

* Plant retooling. We read the last month about the last Saturn L coming off the line in DE so by now hopefully GM is hot on the trail of converting the plant for Solstice

* Final engineering changes (major stuff). The articles we read from England mule tests were back in Feb so hopefully by now the engineers have worked out all the issues.

Fall 2004

* Test car production. If all goes well in summer they'll be popping out a few cars to test the line. I'm sure there will be some spy shots of Solstice in DE area this fall.

* More car magazine test drives? Might be good time for another round of "host the car magazine reporters" to update them on the close to final model. Articles from this would make early 2005 mags just in time for car show season.

Winter 2005

* Final specs, prices and options released.

* Car show season. Here I'd really, really, really want a production version of the Solstice on the show floor for us to sit in, inspect final fit/finish, open the trunk/hood, and otherwise crawl around. We need to get close to this car and this step would be vital to build momentum into the spring/summer.

Spring 2005

* Let the ordering begin ! :cheers

Early Summer 2005

* Drop your top and drive your Solstice :patriot
 

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mceb said:
...(this is the part where I tell a multi-national corporation how to do their business...

Ya. Good luck with that. :patriot :cheers :smile

Nice timing, MCEB. JMHO, but reality is probably about 3-5 months later. It takes time to make a baby and it takes time to make a new platform (even if you use borrowed parts). You can't rush either... there comes a point where even more people won't help. Getting nine women to work on getting you a baby doesn't get you a baby in one month from conception.

Turning up the heat doesn't always work either. Incubating a chicken egg at 100 deg F gets you chicks in 21 days. at 101 deg, you get them in 19 1/2 or 20 days. At 212 degrees, you don't get chicks in one day - you get breakfast!!!

Where's the time in your schedule for using plant built cars for crash testing, and the time it takes to fix issues (which ALWAYS occur?). Like I said, I think we've all thought this, but MHO is that this is wishful thinking. I doubt anyone at GM is holding back, and we'll all know if they beat their fall '05 timing. Just don't count on it - I'm sure they want to get it out next month too!!
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Yes there is some wishful thinking in my timeline but I don't think it's out of the question. I feel that shaving off 3 or 4 months is still reachable if things go smoothly this summer & fall over in DE. Also given Solstice is the industry darling for quick development time it would pay to finish on a high note and get it rolling sooner than expected :cool
 

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I like your thinking, and would love to see the Solstice by summer 2005. I just don't think it will really hit market that fast.

The latest I saw on the plant conversion was that it would start after L series production ended, and they had scheduled that to end this month. So it really hasn't started yet. I have also read that they expected it to be a complicated retooling of the plant since the production process for Kappa was so different than the L series (to have a flexible assembly line). So I think it is going to take them some time to get the plant up and capable of churning out pre-production models for testing. Thats probably why they are estimating Fall 2004.

Hopefully their estimates are conservative, and the car hits sooner than expected, as long as they don't rush it and drop the ball somewhere. I'd buy it today if I could, but after waiting two years to hear it will be produced, I suppose I could wait another 15 months to get behind the wheel. It will be tough!
 

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while i want the solstice as soon as possible, my ideal timeline is that we get the car right after they get the car to come off the production line with little or no problems, no sooner
 

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Mazda is going to introduce the NC-series Miata for 2005. I wonder if that will have any impact on the introduction date of the Solstice. Will they try to beat Mazda, or will they wait so they can introduce last minute changes in response to the MX-5? With Pontiac's performance heritage, I would think they would want to be sure to have a better power-to-weight ratio than their direct competition.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Photon said:
Mazda is going to introduce the NC-series Miata for 2005. I wonder if that will have any impact on the introduction date of the Solstice. Will they try to beat Mazda, or will they wait so they can introduce last minute changes in response to the MX-5? With Pontiac's performance heritage, I would think they would want to be sure to have a better power-to-weight ratio than their direct competition.
Personally I say no changes based on Mazda. At this point Pontiac is taking the lead by jumping in with both feet on Solstice so it's Madza who now has to play catchup on their next move. Not much is known about the next MX-5 so they've been playing their cards close to the vest.
 

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i am a patient man, and as such, i can wait quite some time to make sure my baby isn't going to have to go to the dealer for recalls every month or two


if you're listening pontiac, don't rush, take your time, and put out a quality product
 

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mceb said:
Personally I say no changes based on Mazda. At this point Pontiac is taking the lead by jumping in with both feet on Solstice so it's Madza who now has to play catchup on their next move. Not much is known about the next MX-5 so they've been playing their cards close to the vest.
I agree. Even if GM wanted to do last minute changes, there isn't likely to be very much they could do in such a short period of time. The chasis, drivetrain, suspension and steering will be finalized for the most part, and I would assume they will be after the best performance they can get without making the car unbearable to drive. So a good performing Miata is not really going to change that. Besides, they will compete against Miata, but they are benchmarking the Honda S2000.

We'll see what the next Miata brings. There isn't much information, but I am sure they will not want to change the formula too much. The current one has been such a success.
 

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AztekzRpurty said:
Seeing as how this sheet-hydroforming of the body panels is a new process for G.M., I'm personally bracing myself for delays.
Is the Hydroforming process to be used for body panels? I was under the impression that it was just for structural sheet metal. Does anyone know? If it is for body panels, then yeah, I think it might take awhile to perfect considering the much higher demand for a smooth surface. They may already have the process down, but moving from laboratory to assembly line is almost always a time consuming process.
 

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AutoLine Detroit had a segment on the Solstice. If I remember correctly, they said the hood couldn't be made using conventional die stamping methods because it would stretch the metal too much and cause tears.

They were going to use the hydrofrming process for the hood. The talk was that it is a cheaper way to fabricate parts.

I don't know if it is any faster to make a part compared to the conventional method, just cheaper and they can do things that can't be done with conventional die stamping.
 

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http://autos.msn.com/research/vip/futuremodel.aspx?familyid=1094
http://motortrend.com/roadtests/coupe/112_0406_convpontiac/index1.html

and
http://www.ai-online.com/issues/article_detail.asp?id=413

All reference "sheet-hydroforming" similar to how deep-drawn stainless kitchen sinks are made (one-sided die, and hydraulic pressure on opposite side of the formed metal piece).

Cycle time is much worse, takes many times longer to form a piece than running same through a 6 piece progressive die (which for traditional stamping is actually a very complicated progressive die).

Upside: complex shapes are easier to form, and since you only pay for one side of a die and only one form, the tooling investment can be half or less of forming a complex shape using traditional stamping technology.

The time it takes to make a part automatically limits the volume: way back in a past life, estimates for car volumes of sheet-hydroforming bodies or body panels were on the order of 7,500 - 12,500 units per year. So the 20,000 Solstice unit volume makes sense if you allow ten years of tecnology advancement - but certainly not much more.

Makes it ideal for niche, low volume, complex shaped vehicles. If you do the underpinnings with traditional construction, you can just buy another set of body dies and make another low volume niche vehicle of same platform: Hence the Saturn Kappa.

This is a clear change in direction at GM, and more evidence that this car won't become the "fiero" of the 21st century. The fiero was sold to management the traditional way: on expected sales volumes of 125,000. Towards the end it was bleeding red ink at 45,000 units per year.

As long as GM can profit from 20,000 Solstices and a few thousand more of another niche Saturn car, this can be nothing less than a win for GM.

But, I digress (not so surprising...). It appears several of the body panels are sheet-hydroformed. :thumbs
 

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Does GM have a car already on the showroom floor with sheet-hydroformed body panels or will the Solstice be their first? I know they've been doing it on structural pieces (frame rails,etc.) for several years, but this is the first I've heard of it used for body panels.
 

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I am in the market for the right roadster. I like the idea of a car from USA. Two years ago I got a Pontiac Vibe when they first came out and it is great for what i use it for. I would prefer this over Miata, Honda 2000, BMWZ4, etc. Will the Solstic be at the December, January and February auto shows??? :patriot
 

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Discussion Starter #18
roadsterfan said:
Will the Solstic be at the December, January and February auto shows??? :patriot
It was this past year but you couldn't sit in it. Hopefully next year we'll get a closer look. See my pictures from 2004 NY auto show.
 

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As there was only one "production" model and one "concept" this spring and they traveled together, they were only at the bigger shows (Detroit, NY, etc) this year. I'm hopeful it will make it to the smaller venues (Houston, St Lewis, etc) as they are scheduled to start manufacturing this winter (I think). It will be close. Depends on how fast they can retool an ex-Saturn facility.
 
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