Wednesday, July 19, 2006

GMC crosses over with Acadia

Thursday, July 13, 2006
GMC crosses over with Acadia
GM touts SUV as larger, more functional alternative as part of effort to unlock sales.
Brett Clanton / The Detroit News

General Motors Corp. on Wednesday unveiled the 2007 GMC Acadia, an all-new crossover sport utility vehicle that could give the automaker a bigger foothold in the fast-growing category.

GM touts the Acadia as a larger and more functional alternative to the Honda Pilot and other popular car-based utility vehicles and as part of a larger effort to unlock more sales from the GMC brand.

A lineup of new crossovers, including the Acadia and spin-off versions for Saturn and Buick, are considered a key piece of GM's plan to revive its North American auto business after the company lost $10.6 billion last year.

"These are the vehicles that are supposed to stop GM's decline in market share," said Rebecca Lindland, industry analyst at Global Insight in Lexington, Mass.

Acadia is the first crossover for GMC and represents an attempt to start broadening the appeal and lineup of GM's second-largest vehicle brand.

GM sees greater potential for GMC in part because of its strength in coastal markets where the automaker is weak.

The eight-passenger crossover comes with six standard air bags, available all-wheel-drive and a 267-horsepower V6 engine that gets up to 25 miles per gallon in highway driving.

It boasts comfort features such as a remote starter, Bose sound system, 12 cup holders and a lever that allows a passenger to flip the second row down with one hand.

But a main selling point is an ample third row seat, which most competitors lack.

"We have a real third row that can fit three real adults," said Michael Burton, GM's director for interior design for Acadia.

Though it is nearly as long and tall as the full-size Yukon SUV, Acadia is considered a crossover because it rides on a car-like chassis rather than a rugged truck frame, and may be better-equipped for carpools than slogging through the mud.

But to keep Acadia from being pigeon-holed as a family vehicle, GM is selling the car with optional 19-inch chrome wheels.

"Depending on the accessories you can get," Lindland said, "you can have a bling mobile or a mommy mobile."

The Acadia will help GM gauge whether crossover buyers will choose a bigger vehicle if given the option and if the fuel economy is competitive.

"When you go into a market, you can look in an area that is already full or you can go into a space that's empty," said Lynda Messina, manager of product communications for GM's front-wheel drive trucks, commercial trucks and vans. The automaker said it chose the latter because there are already plenty of strong players in the category.

GM will build Acadia along with two other crossover vehicles spawned from the same Lambda underbody beginning this fall at a new factory in Delta Township near Lansing. Acadia and the Saturn Outlook will arrive late this year, while the Buick Enclave comes in 2007.

Pricing for Acadia has not been released yet, but it is expected to fall below the brand's flagship vehicle, the GMC Yukon, which starts at $34,895.

© Copyright 2006 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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