Solstice Coupe Coming, Says Lutz
Now that General Motors has finally gotten its new Pontiac Solstice roadster into production, the automaker is looking at opportunities to follow up with other niche vehicles. "I'm sure, in a couple years, we'll do the Solstice Coupe," GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz tells TheCarConnection.com. And since it would be a mechanically simpler vehicle than the new, $19,995 convertible, "We could possibly take another $1000 out of the cost."
The so-called Kappa architecture, developed specifically for the Solstice, is a major reason why GM is looking at other niche product options. But so is the new process being used to shape Solstice's curvaceous body. Instead of multiple steel die sets, the hydroformed sheetmetal process uses incredibly high water pressure and a single die to mold steel into complex shapes. Until now, noted Lutz, the Solstice hood could only have been made out of plastic, a material with its own unique problems.
What other Kappa products are on tap Lutz isn't saying, though he noted it "would take a substantial amount of engineering" to add a second row to the two-seat Kappa platform. That would be essential if GM were to approve a concept vehicle like Chevrolet's Nomad show car. Meanwhile, there are no current plans to produce a right-hand-drive version of the Solstice or any other Kappa-based vehicle. In the rush to bring the Solstice to market, GM decided not to make the platform, in Lutz's words, "ambidextrous."
But despite such limitations, GM is optimistic about the Kappa platform's potential. The test comes with the launch of the Solstice roadster, and then the Saturn Sky convertible, which follows in early 2006. "If it works," said the automaker's product chief, "we'll do more." And based on early results, that seems likely. Pontiac already has taken about 9000 advance orders for Solstice, and is looking at ways it could boost production from about 1500 vehicles a month. -Paul A. Eisenstein