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GM won't be spinning a Chevrolet Nomad off the Kappa architecture anytime soon. (Photo by Joe Polimeni)
No More Kappas? Sporty rear-drive spinoffs fall from GM's to-do list
RICK KRANZ | Automotive News
Posted Date: 1/24/05
DETROIT -- General Motors has slowed ambitious plans for a wide lineup of sporty rear-drive cars on its Kappa architecture.
Kappa is the basis for the 2006 Pontiac Solstice and the 2007 Saturn Sky -- low-volume, two-passenger sports cars slightly larger than the Mazda Miata. GM may sell a roadster in Europe as a Vauxhall or Opel.
But developing a coupe, wagon or anything more on the architecture is a low priority, says Lori Queen, GM vehicle line executive for small cars .
That is a change from a year ago, when GM displayed the Chevrolet Nomad wagon and Saturn Curve coupe concepts and touted them as likely Kappa derivatives.
"I think a couple of realities hit," says Queen. "We have an awful lot of mainstream, high-volume products coming out right now."
Those include GM's highly profitable full-sized trucks and new Saturn models. GM's redesigned 2007 full-sized trucks are scheduled to debut next January at the Detroit auto show.
With those programs under way, GM executives are allocating resources carefully. And, Queen says, "Niche vehicles are not at the top of everybody's list."
Also, GM wants to see how the innovative Kappa vehicles make it through what Queen calls "a totally new vehicle-development process."
GM cut costs for Kappa so it could keep sticker prices low. The Solstice is a bare-bones sports car with a sticker price promised under $20,000 by Vice Chairman Robert Lutz. The Sky will be priced a few thousand dollars higher because it will have more equipment.
Lutz also wanted the first Kappa vehicle, the Solstice, produced quickly.
Queen's team scrapped the traditional "alpha build" of a rough "mule" vehicle, testing ride and handling by computer simulation. GM saved time and money by using parts from other vehicles. For example, the interior and exterior door handles are shared with the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt. The outside mirrors come from a Fiat model.
GM also is trying a new stamping technique, using hydroforming to bend sheet metal. That cuts costs and time.
Says Queen: "There are still a lot of people who want to see if I can pull this off before we start committing to doing half a dozen more."