GM may have surprised a lot of people when it unveiled small, Mini Cooper-sized concept cars at the New York Auto Show this week.
They are the Trax, the Beat, and the Groove. (Sounds like Baby Boomers had a lot to do with these cars, eh?) To be built in Korea, they will be part of the Chevrolet stable of cars aimed at emerging markets like Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America.
The decision now facing GM is if it really wants to sell minis in the U.S. It is said that vice chairman of GM, Robert Lutz, who headed the project of creating the cars, wants very much for it to be produced for the U.S. market.
More details on the vehicles can be found in the press release below. Our take? While the market seems hot for such vehicles, we’re not sure it’s a path GM should follow. Though most economists and enthusiasts point to such vehicles growing popularity, the big suppliers–Toyota, Honda, and Nissan–have the marketshare and cash to fund such money-losing vehicles. Unless the three concepts could command premium prices like the Mini Cooper, GM would face a losing proposition selling them even with the lower costs in Korea.
NEW YORK – Three Chevrolet minicar global concepts designed to appeal to young car buyers in urban markets prove that art needn’t take a back seat just because the canvas is small. Revealed today at the New York Auto Show, the highly creative Chevrolet Beat, Chevrolet Groove and Chevrolet Trax concepts drive the energy, diversity and excitement of urban life into cars that deliver good-looking fun, fuel economy and value.
Democracy lovers will even get the chance to pick their favorite by visiting www.vote4chevrolet.com and casting their vote for the Beat, Groove or Trax. The results will help Chevrolet determine U.S. market interest in the minicar segment, and which design/capability package resonates best with potential buyers.
All three concepts were designed at GM’s Design Studio in Inchon, South Korea. One of GM’s 11 Global Design Studios, the designers in the Korean center are experts in small car product development.
Built on GM’s global mini architecture, these concepts demonstrate the flexibility, creativity and innovative focus of design in GM’s Asia Pacific region. The Chevrolet Beat concept, a running prototype of a micro import tuner, was built in India; while the Chevrolet Groove and Trax micro urban crossover concepts were built at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Mich.
“The Chevrolet Beat, Groove and Trax concepts highlight the strength and diversity of GM’s Global Design capabilities, as well as the ability of our Global Product Development team to anticipate and quickly meet the evolving needs of our diverse markets around the world,” said Ed Welburn, vice president, GM Global Design.
“The design team was so enthused about being given the assignment to develop the perfect small car for urban commuters that they created not one, but three interpretations of how this car may be developed for Chevrolet customers around the world.”
Chevrolet is one of four GM global brands, meeting diverse customer needs in 120 countries with vehicles that range from subcompacts and family sedans to full-size pickups and SUVs and iconic sports cars such as the Corvette. The concepts revealed in New York, for example, offer three different fuel-efficient engines, including a diesel.
“The Chevrolet Beat, Groove and Trax concepts have the potential to expand the reach of Chevrolet – already a beloved brand around the world – even further, connecting with young buyers on multiple continents who desire fun-yet-efficient transportation,” said Chevrolet General Manager Ed Peper. “These are the same brand attributes that made Chevrolet a household name in the U.S.”
Here’s a look at Chevrolet’s three minicar concepts:
Chevrolet Beat : Designed to evoke the mood of a speedy micro import tuner, the Beat is a front-wheel-drive, three-door hatchback concept built to be personalized, and powered by a 1.2-liter turbocharged gasoline engine mated to an automatic transmission. It’s loaded with technology, including a navigation system and premium stereo.
Chevrolet Groove: A “funkastalgia”-themed vehicle too tough-looking to be “cute,” the Groove concept is a retro-inspired vehicle with bodacious fender flares and an upright windshield. It looks much longer than it is, thanks to its short hood and long cabin. The front-drive Groove is powered by a small, efficient 1-liter diesel engine.
Chevrolet Trax: An urban crossover concept that’s equally at home on the trails or in traffic, it gets a low-cost all-wheel-drive system and looks the part of a rugged SUV many times its size, thanks to a voluminous one-piece bumper and fender system in the front and back, a rear-mounted spare tire and a roof rack. Trax is powered by a 1-liter gas engine.
GM’s Global Product Development process
The Chevrolet Beat, Groove and Trax concepts were designed and built leveraging GM’s Global Product Development process, created from best practices around the world that integrate design, engineering, powertrain and manufacturing organizations to ensure each vehicle program meets its quality, timing and business targets, yet is responsive to the needs in regional markets.
As part of its global product development process, GM is growing the skills and capabilities of its design and engineering centers in several emerging markets, using key tools and technologies, such as a global virtual design and engineering network, that allows engineers and designers to collaborate with each other around the world.
Chevrolet’s global footprint
Chevrolet is one of the fastest-growing brands in the world, with a sales increase of 158 percent outside North America since 2001. Chevrolet sold 4.3 million vehicles worldwide in 2006, 2.8 million – or 65 percent – in the United States. From 2005 to 2006, Chevrolet’s sales grew 19 percent in the Latin America, Africa and the Middle East region; 19 percent in the Asia/Pacific region; and 15 percent in Europe.
The Chevrolet Aveo sedan and five-door subcompact, engineered and built in South Korea, is a strong contender in the very competitive global small car market.
Press release via General Motors/Chevrolet