Saturn CSV a Different Approach to Minivans

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Even though production of Saturn's first minivan is more than a year away, some rumors about the vehicle - and its corporate cousins - have began to surface. Many of us diehard Saturn fans won't like the news, but as the saying goes, "business is business" and General Motors is not in the car making business to lose money. Saturn is under pressure to boost sales and become a profitable sales channel for the corporation. As a result, the company which once prided itself on not using GM components in its cars, now finds itself reaching deeper and deeper into GM's vast parts bin.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

GM has changed a lot since the early days of Saturn. The company's North American Operations has undergone an extensive makeover. It is now designing and building world-class cars and trucks with quality, that according to J.D. Power & Associates' 2002 Initial Quality Survey, trail only Toyota and Honda.

Nevertheless, the integration of Saturn into GM is a sore point for many Saturn enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the 2005-06 Saturn minivan - or crossover sport van (CSV) as GM will reportedly call the new minivans - will do little to change that trend. In fact, it will be the first Saturn vehicle built along side other GM models. Specifically, the Saturn CSV will be built in Doraville, GA on the same assembly line as Chevy, Pontiac, and Buick versions.

The new vans will be based on a significantly re-engineered version of GM's current minivan platform, and offered in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations. In addition, the updated platform will reportedly include components from other platforms in an effort to improve interior space, driving dynamics, and crashworthiness. They will be taller and wider, blending the utility and function of GM's current minivans with the sporty and rugged appearance of an SUV, much like the new Chrysler Pacifica. Automotive News reports that "the front end of the vehicles will feature a tall, prominent grille, combined with tall fenders to house the headlights. It will be several inches higher than the 2003 Venture, whose base version is 67.4 inches tall."

While the vans will share some sheetmetal (Saturn's version will be the first Saturn to built without a spaceframe and polymer body-side panels), they will have unique characteristics to set them apart. Bob Lutz told Automotive News in an interview about the minivans in January that, "we would probably not invest any more in sheet metal differentiation than Chrysler does between Chryslers and Dodges. There is really no value in slapping a bunch of unique sheet metal on a minivan because people don't notice it. A minivan looks like a minivan. You get your differentiation in the grille, rear end, bumpers, fascias, wheels, side ornamentation." Saturn will be charged in differentiating its van in a way that appeals to economy-minded import buyers.

Incidentally, this mid-cycle enhancement of GM's current minivan platform is just a temporary update until work on the company's all-new Lambda architecture is complete. The Lambda arctitecture will be the basis for GM minivans and crossover vehicles expected in the second half of the decade. Sources say Saturn will use Lambda for its upcoming midsize crossover utility due in 2007 and minivan slated for the 2009 model year. The 2007 crossover is rumored to be positioned as a step-up vehicle for current Vue owners.

In addition to Saturn's 2007 crossover and 2009 minivan, the Lambda architecture will be also reportedly be used for a 2008 Buick minivan, 2009 Chevrolet minivan, 2008 Buick Rendezvous, and a 2008 Pontiac sport-utility truck.

Drawings of one SaturnFans.com member's minivan concept, and pictures of the Doraville assembly plant are online.

Source: Automotive news

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