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GM And Ford Concepts In Fast Company

Published on 11/27/2004

What if Chevrolet produced a high-performance Malibu Maxx hatchback?Or Cadillac a souped-up SRX sport-utility vehicle?

And what if Hummer focused on high fashion with an H2 Black Ops SUV?

The Specialty Equipment Market Association show, a trade show for aftermarket parts suppliers in Las Vegas, has become the venue where automakers drop hints of vehicles it could produce quickly.

If those in the trade like what they see at SEMA, automakers prepare the vehicle for the auto show circuit for public comment.

“There's a lot of good things to watch at SEMA this year,” said Mark Reuss, executive director of GM's Performance Division, formed two years ago to create limited-edition, performance versions of GM vehicles to create a buzz. Though Ford was the featured make at this year's show, it focused on higher-performance versions of the 2005 Mustang. GM, however, displayed many performance variations on current themes.

For example, the Malibu Maxx Cross Country concept substitutes a 3.9-liter, 240-horsepower V6 for the 3.5-liter, 200-horsepower V6 in the car and adds ground effects and 19-inch wheels.

The Cadillac SRX Sport boosts horsepower to 330 from 320 in the 4.6-liter V8. A 5-speed automatic also allows manual shifting in a version being considered for 2007.

The “black tie” Hummer would feature black-painted chrome accents inside and out, including the grille, for a patent-leather-like look. And to keep it clean regardless of the weather, the window washer/wiper system could produce hot solvent to remove ice, frost or road grime if, for example, you opt to travel through a muddy field to attend a formal wedding rather than hit the roads.

Here are other GM concepts at SEMA:

• A midsize Chevy Colorado SS pickup is rumored to be under strong consideration and is a candidate for next year's auto show circuit. The Colorado SS substitutes its 3.5-liter, 200-hp inline 5-cylinder with the 6-liter, 400-hp V8 from the 2005 Corvette. The V8 is teamed with a 4-speed floor-mounted automatic transmission that offers manual mode. Two other Chevys awaiting a production go-ahead are supercharged versions of the compact Cobalt coupe and sedan.

• Chevy will offer a supercharged 2-liter 4-cylinder, rated at 205 hp, in the Cobalt SS coupe that's due out in a couple of weeks. But the show car has been modified to deliver 272 hp and hints at a more potent offering soon.

• The Cobalt sedan at SEMA asks “what if” an SS four-door sporting a 2-liter, 230-hp, supercharged 4-cylinder joins the coupe.

• Cobalt replaces Cavalier. But with more than a million Cavaliers in consumer hands, Chevy has come up with the Cavalier Extreme to show how owners can add power. The Extreme has a performance kit supercharger suited to 2003 and newer models to raise horsepower 25 percent, to 175 hp. It also adds 18-inch wheels and a spoiler.

• Pontiac provided a peek at the 2005 GTO coming out in December with a 6-liter, 400-hp V8 replacing the 5.7-liter, 350-hp V8. While the GTO will offer optional hood scoops for a sportier look, the SEMA car also added front and rear fascia extensions, spoiler and rocker-panel extensions from GM's Parts and Service Division to show how buyers can dress it up even more.

• Pontiac then showed a GTO with a new 6.4-liter, 575-hp V8 with Ram Air induction, which suggests that the rumors are true that Pontiac is developing an even higher-output GTO. It's supposed to be dubbed the Judge, the name used on the highest-output GTO in the '60s and '70s.

But, insiders insist, don't expect a Judge for a couple of years until Pontiac increases GTO sales volume. For '04, its first year on the market, GTO sold about 9,000 units, or roughly half the target. For '05, Pontiac says the 400-hp V8 should boost sales to 12,000 to 18,000 GTOs.

As for Ford, the company is paying homage to the Mustang, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, longevity Ford attributes to the performance market.

It displayed '05 Mustangs with a variety of body kits, suspension packages and wheel/tire combinations to show enthusiasts the possibilities.

Noted specialty manufacturers such as Roush Performance and Saleen Inc. also showed performance versions of the Mustang that soon will be on sale. No word on price.

“In 1964, Mustang became a hit because it was great-looking and affordable. But street performance and racing victories made the car an icon,” said Ford Executive Vice President Greg Smith.

Since the launch of the first performance edition — the 1965 Shelby GT350 — making Mustangs go faster has grown into an $800 million-plus annual business fueled by customers who spend an average of $1,500 a year on Mustang parts, according to Ford estimates. Ford also announced a road-racing spec version of the '05 Mustang. Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing, said the carmaker plans to continue Mustang's presence on the track with a performance parts and competition program for the '05 model.

Davis revealed a race version of the Mustang with the number “15” in reference to Parnelli Jones' Mustang Boss 302 Trans Am car that raced under that number.
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