Congratulations to General Motor’s Chevrolet! Two months after offering its stock for sale to the public, GM came to Detroit’s North American International Auto Show wishing to appear once again a winner. They started well by winning the North American Car of the Year award for the Chevrolet Volt. This wasn’t surprising, but reinforced how important alternative powerplants are to the marketplace today, whether many electric cars sell or not. To take this forward, GM announced they are developing an all-electric vehicle and will expand the lineup with electric-enhanced power in the coming years, including a Volt hatchback. They also said they are developing a very small electric car to sell in China, but that might make its way to our shores later down the road.
But GM didn’t just talk about the future, they also showed a couple of new vehicles that are on the horizon. First was the baby Buick to bring luxury to the compact-sized American car world. This is the 2012 Verano, based on the Chevrolet Cruze platform, but with features – and, most importantly – a luxury feel. Most of this will come from making the interior as quiet as possible. That’s an essential for a luxury model, one of the first things potential buyers notice. When you see the Verano you know it’s a Buick — it begins with the matching waterfall grill, and the interior feels like other Buick products. It’s powered by a four-cylinder engine, not the first in Buick’s lineup. The 2.4-liter engine generates upwards of 180 horsepower and GM says it will achieve at least 31 mpg on the highway. A performance-oriented 2.0-liter turbocharger four-cylinder engine comes later down the road. There will be plenty of add-ons when the Verano hits the streets, although prices and dates weren’t released. And if I know GM’s head designer Ed Welburn then I know special editions models will arrive shortly after.
Another introduction was of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, which comes in both hatchback and sedan form. A subcompact, it will be manufactured here and replaces the Korean-built Aveo in Chevrolet’s lineup. The Sonic will come with either a standard 1.8-liter four-banger with 135-hp and attached to either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. For a bit more advanced technology, there’s also a 1.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder that produces 138 horses. GM expects this version to reach 40 mpg in highway driving.
In another move, GM will start selling the OnStar mirror, and the security and connectivity service it provides through a partnership with Best Buy. The stand-alone mirror contains the technology to owners of non-GM vehicles and older GM vehicles to use OnStar. The mirror does have OnStar’s “blue button” which not only identifies the system, but with a simple push connects you to the system. Once installed it will give users the capability to utilize OnStar’s automatic crash response, turn-by-turn navigation, stolen vehicle location assistance, one-button access to emergency and roadside services, and hands-free calling – with Bluetooth. The mirror will go on sale in the spring, beginning in Best Buy and then eventually moving into other consumer electronics retailers. Initially the price will be $299, plus installation – probably $75 and $100. A range of service plans will be available, starting at $18.95 a month or $199 a year.