Two weeks ago, TheCarConnection toured GM's design studios for a sneak preview of the future cars and crossovers planned for Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick. We've shared the Buick 2012 and Cadillac 2012 portfolios with you, but what's in store for GM's moneymaker?
At its core, the 2012 Chevrolet lineup is getting smaller and smaller. And greener. And if you were to see the upcoming versions of the Spark, Aveo, Malibu, Camaro and Orlando we saw in GM's Warren styling studio, you'd see a fork in the design road. The compact Chevys of the future are getting a more blocky, Transformers-informed design language, while bigger sedans like the Cruze and Malibu are growing smoother and swankier and adopting more luxury-car cues.
We don't have some official photos or illustrations--GM is keeping those a secret as it stages new-car introductions throughout 2010 and 2011. We do have some details and comments from GM's styling team and from our mental database, though.
Here's the rundown of the future cars and crossovers from Chevrolet due by 2012:
2011 Chevrolet Spark: The new subcompact Chevrolet is a brand-new vehicle with a more chiseled take on its city-car proportions, than, say, the Honda Fit or Ford Fiesta. Designer Lyon promises some charming details inside. The 2011 Spark will be built in South Korea and China; U.S. versions arrive later in 2010.
2011 Chevrolet Aveo: The next Aveo is the new Aveo: there's no name change to Viva, GM interior designer Dave Lyon says, countering a report from another auto Web site. The new hatchback and sedan duo shares the blocky, creased styling gene of the Spark, though the compelling sedan wasn't shown in our preview. Styled at GM's South Korea studio, the Aveo is likely to be built in Orion Township, Michigan, as part of a job-preserving deal with the Obama administration and the UAW. This sketch shows the Agile, a version of the Aveo destined for other markets. Sales begin sometime next year.
2011 Chevrolet Cruze: We've covered the Cruze elsewhere, but Lyon explains its more sophisticated styling language as necessary for the more upscale compact. It's detailed like a luxury car, he says--and markedly smoother and rounder than the smaller cars, to our eyes. It shows up in the second quarter of 2010, and eventually will replace the Cobalt, which implies some life after death for the current Chevy compact sedan and coupe.
2011 Chevrolet Volt: Shown above, the endless PR and SEO goldmine that is the Chevy Volt enters production in November 2010. GM is now building prototypes in a Detroit plant, in preparation for the launch of the complex new Volt. The hybrid--sorry, extended-range electric vehicle*--has a 230-mpg city economy rating by early estimates under new EPA rules, a publicity claim that's been disputed far and wide across the Interwebs.
2011 Chevrolet Orlando: To be built in Orion Township starting next year, the Mazda5-sized Orlando crossover is spun from the Cruze/Volt architecture. A possible GMC variant in the works; a new small Buick crossover unrelated to the canceled Vuick plug-in hybrid could also share some running gear with the Orlando. The 1.4-liter four-cylinder shared by the Volt and Cruze also is a possibility here.
2012 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible: Yes, it's late. Better than never, right? The convertible edition probably loses almost all the Coupe's tiny trunk, but it's worth it.
2012 Chevrolet Malibu: The new sedan gets upgraded with a softer look, a more sloping D-pillar, and a richer interior with a large navigation screen front and center on the console. No images have been released by GM.
*We call the Volt a hybrid because, to car shoppers, anything with batteries and a gas engine might be construed as a hybrid. Our green-car expert John Voelcker explains his side on our internal debate on the Volt hybrid thusly:As the term is commonly used, a hybrid refers to a car with a combustion engine that derives some portion of its motive power from electricity--whether regenerated from braking energy, charged up via the grid, or both. If you can plug it in, it's a plug-in hybrid.
On the other hand, the Volt is an electric vehicle with a very short range. Its operating mode for the first 40 miles is exclusively electric. Duty cycle tells all, but large numbers of Volts may not switch on their engines for days, if ever. The gasoline engine is a range extender ONLY, and does not drive the wheels mechanically--it just recharges the battery.
To put it another way: The Volt is an EV. Take out the gasoline engine, and it still runs as an EV. But the Prius is a gasoline-powered car, with or without the ability to plug into the grid. Take out all the electric motors and the battery pack, and it still runs as a gasoline car.