General Motors Corp. plans to dispel the “soccer mom” image of its minivans in the United States by launching a new four-model range of so-called "crossover sport vans," or CSVs, according to a Reuters report. The new range is an update of GM’s current three-model minivan line with more aggressive SUV-like frontal styling, raised ride height and front foglights, Reuters said.
First to be shown to journalists on Dec. 4 were the Buick Terraza and Saturn Relay. Chevrolet Uplander and Pontiac Montana SV6 derivatives will be unveiled later and sales of the 2005 model year vehicles begin in autumn next year.
"A lot of men recognise minivans as a family necessity ... but they don't want to drive a minivan," GM vice chairman Bob Lutz told Reuters, adding: "Women do feel empowered driving a sport utility rather than a minivan."
The minivan segment, which accounts for about 1.1 million U.S. sales a year, is too big to ignore, but few drivers want to own one, GM officials reportedly said.
"It doesn't have the minivan stigma," Lutz told Reuters. "We have all the features that parents love about minivans but wrapped in an exterior that looks like a sport utility vehicle."
The news agency noted that GM's share of the minivan market has fallen over the past few years as Honda, Toyota and Nissan have developed more competitive offerings -- all largely designed and built in the United States.
Reuters said GM hopes sales will grow with the new minivans which will replace the current Chevrolet Venture, Pontiac Montana and the Silhouette from Oldsmobile, a brand which is being phased out.
"Really the goal here is to attain higher volume than the current van and hopefully higher margin," Lutz told Reuters.
Reuters said GM's minivan sales in the U.S. are down about 8 percent so far this year. Last year, GM sold nearly 200,000 in the United States and Canada, far below the capacity of about 250,000 at the Doraville, Ga., plant where they are built, according to Reuters.