By on November 16, 2009

Or not...

Enthusiasts have been adamant that GM’s decision to sell a police-only version of its RWD global Lumina platform (Holden Statesman) creates a fantastic opportunity for GM to return the Impala to its RWD roots. Such a decision would seem to make sense from a business perspective as well, adding civilian sales volume to what otherwise would be a fleet-only platform. No such luck though. Bob Lutz tells Inside Line that the forthcoming Impala replacement (due in 2014) will be based on GM’s global FWD midsized architecture (Epsilon II). The rationale for this decision appears to be fuel efficiency: Lutz mentions the need to compete with the Ford Taurus’s efficiency achievements as a factor in the decision. By going FWD, GM also hopes to be able to shoehorn the two-mode hybrid system from the discontinued Vueick CUV into a future Impala. In addition to forgoing an opportunity to leverage the Caprice police special architecture, this decision also adds to GM’s epic midsize FWD sedan bloat. From the Malibu to the Buick LaCrosse and Regal, from Impala to the Cadillac XTS “flagship,” GM’s default decision seems to be to base all of its sedans on a single platform, making pricing and content differentiation an ongoing challenge to its product strategy. Vive le sameness!

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34 Comments on “Lutz: Impala Will Be An Epsilon II...”


  • avatar
    86er

    I’d say how I really felt about this, but if you cleaned it up it wouldn’t be much of a sentence.

    GM is so unbelievably screwed.  Repetez avec moi: Epsilon II is not full-sized.  You can stretch it to 20 feet long and it’s still not full-sized. 

    Unbelievable.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Confusing headline — should be Impala will be an Epsilon II, correct?

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    GM could show they’re going in the right direction by simply declaring a moratorium on referring to a Car’s DNA.

  • avatar

    210delray: Happy Monday to me! Yes, that should read Impala.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    It makes sense, though I’d have loved to see a Holden-based Impala SS. Or maybe Chevy will come to its senses and sell the Caprice to us civvies?

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    GM’s got some serious issues, and the current management is never going to fix them. Obviously they think consumers are stupid, and it’s appalling. Sure, there are a lot of people out there that have no clue how often manufacturers share platforms across product lines for several different vehicles, but using one platform for almost every damn car they sell in the U.S. is just going too far. If people want a hybrid car, the Malibu will be able to fill that void with the 2 mode “Vueick” (BTW, funny term Mr. Niedermeyer!) system installed. The Impala should be Chevy’s true full-sizer, and taking it back to RWD seems so logical, especially since all of the certification and what-not to make the car legal here has presumably been done. That’s not even to mention the upcoming FWD “flagship” Cadillac, when Caddy’s volume seller is RWD. Why would GM make such an effort to take the CTS directly at the competition’s volume cars (3 series, A4, C Class) and not aim Cadillac’s top car at theirs? Just more stupid decisions that make one wonder if GM really is going to make it.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      “Sure, there are a lot of people out there that have no clue how often manufacturers share platforms across product lines for several different vehicles, but using one platform for almost every damn car they sell in the U.S. is just going too far.”
       
      There is also the Delta/Delta II.
       
      In any case, VW is planning building almost all of its cars on a single “MQB” architecture, from the Polo to the Passat.  A single platform is nowhere near the biggest of GM’s problems as long as they do sufficient differentiation — at least it gives them economies of scale far beyond what Ford gets out of its D3 platform, for example.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The problem with making the full size Chevy RWD as a volume seller: the market for RWD big cars is dead, so as much as I’d love to see a REAL Impala SS based on the Holden platform, it’d be a niche car, and GM needs volume sellers.

      Witness: Chrysler 300.
      Witness: Pontiac G8.

      The 300 was a great seller as long as gas prices remained stable, but as soon as they went up, the model became an epic sales dog. I can still buy a 2006 (!) 300c at one of my local dealers, brand new, never titled, and there are still ’07s and ’08s around in my area.
      The G8 was a great car and probably would have succeeded if it hadn’t hit the market right in time for $4.00 gas. But even if it’d had its day in the sun before the gas prices shot up, ala Chrysler 300, it’d have met the same fate.
      Like it or not, the future for family sedans is FWD architecture.

      • 0 avatar
        colin42

        I don’t get why people think RWD = poor fuel economy, sure if you put a bigger engine in it and some antiquated rear diff maybe but BMW has proved that RWD & economical can go hand in hand – they just had to think about it to make it work!

        Weight is what kill economy (along with drag) not which wheels are driven

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          Rear drive means less room, more weight and more driveline losses.  It also requires a much more expensive rear suspension if you intend it for passenger-car duty.
           
          There’s no way around this.  BMW makes it work because they can charge more for a car (the 320i or 323i) that’s less roomy, less efficient, slower and not a whole lot nicer inside than a Honda Civic Si.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      It is interesting how you assume that it needs to be RWD because of the competitors.  Take the A4 for example, which is FWD.  So, what was GM aiming for there?
      Honestly, most buyers of 7 series cars and S Class cars probably don’t know or care which wheels drive the vehicle.  If the XTS comes with AWD, it will be even less significant.

    • 0 avatar
      hapless

      Audi gets away with FWD because they use longitudinal-mount and very expensive suspension designs.   Tight turning circle and no torque steer.
      GM uses the cheapest designs available and a transaxle that will torque steer under 50 lb/ft.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    This makes sense if they’re downsizing the Malibu to something else before it arrives.  I’ll bet they’re not.

    I think it would be much better for GM to have an Impala that’s bigger than the Malibu and rather different in ways other than sheetmetal and trim.  Like their new police car, redone in civvy street.

    I have to wonder if GM has learned a lesson from fleet-driven resale value destruction.  If so, I wonder if they have learned the right lesson.  Daily rental fleet sales (and to a lesser extent company car fleet sales) are a real curse… plenty of late-model iron with low mileage to choose from, some decently or even well equipped, competing with sales of stuff that’s just a bit newer, mostly in good shape, not differentiated in any significant way and, quixotically, sometimes backe better.  Who’d buy new when they could get half off?  So, they depress prices for your new cars and wreck the value to the consumer.

    Government fleets, however, are a different story… The local PD runs the cars into the ground and then gives them to other departments.  They go on the market, fully used up with over 150K miles, in about 6 years, minimum, and you’ll never get the smell out, either.  And the interiors started out as crap and went downhill from there.  You can sell a police car and rest assured your new cars won’t be competing with it for the “new or nearly new” buyer. 

    So, why not leverage the car’s costs with some civilian sales?  Or even a lot of them?  The low volume is just going to make the car more expensive and less profitable against whatever Ford and Chrysler may choose to do.  For some buyers, there’s even some cachet in acquiring a police-spec vehicle.  Might as well take advantage of that.

    Maybe I’m wrong but a Malibu-sized Impala and no civvy police car makes no sense.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    RWD is dead for volume mass market sedans. Live with it.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I would expect no less of a bone-headed decision from this lost ball in high grass company.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    I am not sure what the big deal about platform sharing is.  Most auto manufactures are taking this approach.  Take for example, Toyota.
    Camry, Avalon, Venza, Lexus ES
    All on the same platform (as much as the modified EPII platforms are with SWB, LWB, and potentially Super LWB for the Caddy).
    If you include the other vehicles that also share this platform that aren’t cars…
    Highlander, Sienna, and Lexus RX
    When done properly, like the way Toyota does it, it isn’t a problem, and you will see this much more into the future with auto manufactures.  Sharing the platforms and parts will keep costs lower in development and in volume.
    Also, if you look at recalls that have been happening lately, not floormat related, you see the problems span multiple vehicles and occur in very large numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      There’s no problem per se with platform sharing, unless you do it the way GM had for the last twenty years. Remember that classic Lincoln ad where the Cadillac owner couldn’t find his car in a sea lookalike Buicks and Oldsmobiles? Even now, GM cannot knock off its brand-damaging addiction to doing the least possible differentiation among products (see the Lambda CUVs).

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        I would disagree with you on the Lambdas, now that the Saturn version is gone.  The Chevy is basic and you can get some nice features.  The GMC version is nicer, and a few more features and a higher price tag.  After all, that is what GMC is to Chevy, a bit nicer and a bit more expensive, oh , and it makes money.
        The Buick version is the nicest available interior and exterior.  It is supremely quiet as well.  While the available features are just about the same as the Acadia, the price, materials, and very quiet interior differentiate it.  Inside and out, they all look different.  Why do you think there isn’t enough differentiation?

  • avatar

    I think the question is not so much “Should the Impala be FWD or RWD?” but “What is the marketing purpose for the Impala, as distinct from the Malibu?” If it’s just to have something a little bigger and fancier than the Malibu, I question the point — the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima, which are built on the same philosophy, don’t sell terribly well. (The regular upgrades to the Altima have made the Maxima a real try-to-spot-the-point game.)

    • 0 avatar
      moedaman

      This is the real question. I do agree with the fact that the day of mass market rwd cars is over. But even so, how many of these Impalas are going to be sold in the first place? If this is going to be doomed being a low-volume vehicle, then why not get more sales out of the Holden?

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    I seem to recall Fritz Henderson statings his not being a fan of badge-engineering when asked by a journalist about the Pontiac G8 living on as the next Chevy Impala.
     
    Fritz you lying bastard.
     
    Nothing wrong with multiple vehicles sharing one platform AS LONG AS they are properly differentiated in such a way that it would be hard pressed to tell the difference between them. GM has always done a horrible job at this (Buick LaCrosse being the lone standout) and I don’t see how they’re pulling this off with the next range of vehicles.
     
    WHY the hell would they base a Cadillac flagship on the same architecture as the LaCrosse?
    If Buick is supposed to the Lexus equivalent then why is Cadillac chasing the RX350′s tail with the Equinox-based SRX?
     
    I maintain…if this madness continues, GM will fail.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    If they base it on the dissapointing Ep II platform that underpins the new LaCrosse they had better find a way to make it 500 LBS lighter, give it about 5 cu. ft more trunk space with non intrusive hinges, give it better mileage, more headroom, better exterior visibility and Chevrolet exterior styling with heritage round taillights.

  • avatar
    Hognose

    Let’s see.
    adding civilian sales volume to what otherwise would be a fleet-only platform. No such luck though.
    If you had any doubts about the delusional nature of GM management, ponder this: what is a class-trailing, badge-engineered Chevy version of “all-other-GM-midsizes” but a de fact fleet-only platform? Am I going to buy this? Heck no, I have the last real Impala (1996). Am I going to drive this? Unfortunately yes, if my flight gets in late and Avis and Budget and National are out of the higher-quality cars. Like Hyundai Sonatas.
    Bob Lutz tells Inside Line that the forthcoming Impala replacement (due in 2014) will be based on GM’s global FWD midsized architecture (Epsilon II).
    Translation: Bob Lutz is praying that whoever’s in office in American politics in 2014 is as ignorant of the economic concept of sunk cost as all the bozos in office in 2009. The only way this future rolling dungheap will get built, is if the taxpayers still have Maximum Bob and the rest of his inept company on the dole still.
    GM IPO? Never happen. Who will buy a share of a loss?
    Loans to GM? Bond buys? Who would, when the government can and will erase your legal standing with a penstroke.
    This is the point in the zombie movie where the undead legions swarm, devoid of life but seemingly unkillable. The third act is coming, and it means retirement (atop piles of tax dollars, naturally) for Max Bob.
    Unfortunately, it means ruin for many smaller actors in the GM saga, and for them — line workers, salaried workers, suppliers, and pensioners — it is a tragedy. But it is a tragedy that can not be avoided, only postponed.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Unfortunately, it means ruin for many smaller actors in the GM saga, and for them — line workers, salaried workers, suppliers, and pensioners — it is a tragedy. But it is a tragedy that can not be avoided, only postponed.

      I fondly hope that the fantastic talent in the design studios, engineering depts. etc. that resides within GM (not “locked-up” as some wags have dubbed it) will land on their feet when this happens.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Lutz mentions the need to compete with the Ford Taurus’s efficiency achievements as a factor in the decision.
    Oh really Bobby?  You mean like how the Hyundai Genesis……with it’s bigger engine…with more cylinders…proper RWD…and more power than the SHO gets the SAME 17/25 mileage?
    The one thing NOBODY can beat GM at (V8s)  and GM is walking away from it.  Unbelievable.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Too bad. The only GM I would be interested in looking at for the foreseeable future would be a civilian version of the RWD police interceptor.

  • avatar
    Via Nocturna

    “The 2009 Chevrolet Impala is a whole new animal.”
    No, no it’s not. It’s the same rental queen you inept buffoons have been dumping on Avis lots since the debut of the Lumina. What purpose does this Epsilon II Impala serve? Cannibalization of Malibu and LaCrosse sales? GM’s confusing brand stew makes it almost impossible to figure out where this car would be positioned. The Malibu is more than capable of handling the FWD midsize market on its own, so unless GM is planning to turn the Impala into an Avalon/Maxima/Taurus competitor (which should be Buick’s job, I think?), this seems a pointless exercise when the RWD solution is so obvious.  Also, what guarantee is there that GM will be around in 2014?

  • avatar
    mtypex

    The Malibu is a competent FWD midsize-ish sedan.  Now GM needs to figure out how to make a Avalon or Maxima type car to fit above the Malibu in the lineup.  Oh wait, Buick LaCrosse.  Nevermind!

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    GM’s default decision seems to be to base all of its sedans on a single platform, making pricing and content differentiation an ongoing challenge to its product strategy. Vive le sameness!
    Uh, maybe TTAC should throw the same comment towards VW as it’s preparing to do exactly the same “One chassis fits all” thing?

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    I am not sure what the big deal about platform sharing is.

    Today’s lesson in the pitfalls of platform sharing is brought to you by the letter K.

    A quarter century ago (sheesh, that long?) Chrysler was doing so well selling the small-intermediate K cars that they decided to use the K platform as the basis for EVERYTHING.  This actually worked for a while but a few years later they tried to convince us that a tweaked K car was an IMPERIAL, for heavens sake, and no one could suppress their derisive laughter any longer.   Comments about the Epsilon not being a full sized platform no matter how much you stretch it are all too reminiscent of the stretched-K follies.

  • avatar
    Lug Nuts

    Who the hell cares, Bob?  Don’t go away mad, GM,  just go away.


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