As the U.S. struggles to adjust to fuel prices that the rest of the world has been living with for years, European cars offer the most obvious template for model-line reform. Flexible, fuel-efficient vehicles have thrived on the continent for decades, and the European’s have gotten good at squeezing space for a whole family from compact platforms. So when GM first started showing images of its new Cruze compact, this blogger bemoaned that “while the old Chevy Cruze (Suzuki Ignis) was a tall, flexible wagon, the new model sports a long front overhang and a tight greenhouse.” Long, low and wide, the new Cruze felt like downsized Americana (we don’t need no headroom or no stinkim’ hatchback), rather than a platform built for utility and flexibility. Well, my worries were mistplaced (sorta). GM is showing pictures of its Orlando concept, a three-row MPV based on the Cruze platform and aimed squarely at the Mazda5 and Euro-proven Ford Focus C-Max, headed stateside in 2010. Jalopnik notes that there aren’t currently a huge range of small, fuel-efficient family haulers for sale in the states, but this simply proves that (for once) the General may actually be ahead of the curve. There are likely shortcomings, including an emphasis on “American” styling that appears to sacrifice space and visibility for the tight greenhouse that is so fashionable here. Still, by leveraging platforms and offering fuel-sipping transport for large families, GM only improves its chances of success. And no, I’m not kidding. Now, get ready for some major brandgineering….
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