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GM to roll out refreshed passenger cars, a radical pickup

It hopes to regain some of the car volume lost to Asian and European automakers. Mitsubishi adds a new SUV.

November 20, 2002|John O'Dell | Times Staff Writer

General Motors Corp., the only domestic carmaker to gain market share this year -- on the strength of its redesigned trucks and SUVs -- is ramping up for an onslaught of new passenger cars as well.

The General wants desperately to regain some of the car- segment volume that the Asian and European automakers have been taking away for the last decade. GM's offerings include an all-new Chevrolet Malibu for 2004; the radical '03 Chevy SSR pickup; and the 2004 Pontiac Bonneville GXP, the first in a new line of GM performance cars.

Separately, Mitsubishi Motors America is launching its fourth SUV, the mid-size Endeavor, as it pushes to nearly double U.S. sales over the next five years.

Here's a quick first look at these forthcoming models:

Pontiac's GXP lineup

Pontiac Bonneville GXP: The "GXP" is the new designation for all Pontiac performance vehicles. The lineup starts with the limited edition '04 Bonneville GXP with features that will include a 4.4-liter V-8 engine rated at almost 300 horsepower. Sheet metal is unchanged from the '03 Bonneville, but all that Pontiac plastic molding is gone, and the front fascia and rear end have been tweaked for a sleeker, meaner look. Pontiac says GXP versions of the Grand Prix and Grand Am will follow, and it also has shown concept versions of Vibe and Sunfire GXPs with supercharged four-cylinder engines.

Chevy's hot rod pickup

Chevrolet SSR: A three-seat pickup that GM says is intended to add practical storage space -- the cargo bed is 5 feet by 3 feet -- to a package that combines the open-air thrills of a roadster with the style of a custom hot rod (although a mass-produced custom is an oxymoron). Power for the rear-wheel-drive vehicle will come from a 6.0-liter V-8, and preliminary specifications call for it to be portioned out via a four-speed electronic automatic transmission. The SSR's curving steel hardtop folds up and slides away between the cab and the bed. The package will ride on 20-inch rear and 19-inch front wheels and tires.

Malibu gets a new body

Chevrolet Malibu: The 2004 Malibu is a new car that will be built from the same platform that supports the '03 Saab 9-3 and the '02 Opel Vectra sold only in Europe. The same platform will provide the foundation for the Pontiac Grand Am and a future successor to the Saturn L-series, GM officials say. The Malibu will be launched next fall. GM's first drawing of the car shows a body that is slightly smaller, but far more aerodynamic than the current Malibu. The new platform makes it possible to increase passenger cabin volume despite the smaller exterior dimensions. Styling cues will include a chrome front bar and a gold Chevy bowtie emblem, part of a new Chevy family look. The Malibu line will expand in '04 with the Maxx, a new body style that GM calls a five-door extended sedan.

Mitsubishi's endeavor

Mitsubishi Endeavor: This initial sketch of the Endeavor concept hints at what Mitsubishi's newest SUV will be: a sport wagon with a lower roof- line than a standard SUV, a front end with jet-fighter intake scoops and the stance of a sprinter at the starting blocks. The five-passenger, mid-size Endeavor will have a V-6 engine and will be built on a car-like unitized body instead of a truck's ladder frame.

--- UNPUBLISHED NOTE --- SSR Update

Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 27, 2002 Home Edition Highway 1 Part G Page 2 Business Desk 1 inches; 60 words

Chevrolet's upcoming SSR roadster-pickup will be a two-seater with a 5.3-liter V-8 engine, not a three-seater with a 6.0-liter V-8 as reported in the Showroom column in last week's Highway 1 (Nov. 20). The larger engine and extra seat were part of the SSR concept package, but specifications for the hot-rod-styled SSR have changed, Chevrolet said. --- END NOTE ---

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