GM's trio of minicars designed for urban buyers

/ Source: The Associated Press

Hoping to boost its presence in the ultra-small car market, General Motors Corp. on Wednesday unveiled a trio of new Chevrolet minicar concept vehicles designed to grab the attention of young car buyers in urban markets around the world.

Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman for global product development, said the cars, which were designed at the automaker’s studio in South Korea, combine the style and flash that young people are looking for, along with affordability and fuel economy.

The vehicles also could give the world’s largest automaker a bigger foothold in the growing minicar market, which is largely dominated by the Japanese automakers. GM currently produces the Chevrolet Aveo sedan and five-door subcompact.

“These kinds of cars are small part of the market right now,” Lutz said at the New York International Auto Show. “But we believe if they’re cool enough people will buy them.”

The “triplets,” as Lutz called them, include the Beat, a front-wheel drive three-door hatchback powered by a 1.2-liter turbocharged gasoline engine; the Groove, a retro looking front-wheel drive car with a 1-liter diesel engine; and the Trax an “urban crossover” with an all-wheel-drive system and a 1-liter gas engine.

Lutz said it’s a “safe bet” that GM will begin production of at least one the vehicles in the “relatively near future.” He declined to put a price tag on the vehicles, but said that ideally they would start about $10,000 in the U.S. market.

Consumers will also have a say in which of those cars eventually hits dealer lots by voting for their favorite model on a GM Web site. Lutz said that although the vote won’t be the final determination on which car is produced, company officials will take it into account when making their decision.

GM also hopes the new vehicles will boost Chevrolet’s presence as a global brand and plans to market them in urban markets around the world, where minicars already enjoy greater popularity.