DETROIT (CNN) -- Ever slip inside a Saturn? Cozy enough, but
even the most ardent Saturn-ites will admit, it would be nice
to have a larger planet in which to orbit the roadways. Rub
a lamp... it's done!
The code name is: INNOVATE. General Motors announced that the
mid-sized sedan will be built at a Wilmington, Delaware,
plant originally planned to be mothballed. The car will be
based on the Opel Vectra that GM produces and sells in
Europe. Expected launch date: model year 1999.
Although the larger Saturn will be based on the Vectra
platform, it will retain Saturn's trademark plastic body
panels. Skeptics wonder if the hybrid German/Saturn will be
a "real" Saturn... intimating it will be nothing but a
rebadged Opel. But Saturn spokesman Jim Farmer insists it
will be built the "Saturn way." That means emulating the
team concept employed at the one and only Saturn plant in
Spring Hill, Tennessee. From first-hand experience, I can
tell you it's like no other auto plant in the world.
Instead of the car passing by workers on the line, workers
stay with the car in teams and perform several jobs before
moving on to the next car.
Specs: 2.2 liter, 4-cylinder engine; double overhead cam.
Other Saturn stuff: 1997 models will see an average price
hike of about 1.9%, or about $282 per car. How about a look?
Here are some shots of Saturn's redesigned line, which
features entirely redesigned body shells.
We had the opportunity to attend a unique car show in Troy,
Michigan, the other day. It was held solely for fleet
managers and there was not an internal combustion engine to
be seen. Utilities across the nation are hoping to replace
their gas-guzzling, pollution-spewing vehicles with electric
Okay, so what's in it for the rest of us? Plenty. According
to John Olsen of Detroit Edison, if utilities are successful
in using the zero-emission electrics, there will be greater
momentum to create a system of charging stations for the
general public. In fact, in Arizona, charging stations are
already being built in the Phoenix area, with plans to
expand. According to Ray Hobbs of Arizona Public Service,
the grand plan is to build enough charging stations so that
electric vehicle drivers are no more than five minutes from
OKAY... I WANT ONE! Fine. Come fall, GM will be making its
really cool coupe, the EV-1, available in Los Angeles, San
Diego, Phoenix and Tucson. They'll be available at Saturn
dealers in those cities, for lease only. GM tells us the car
goes for about 30-grand, which includes an in-home charger.
The price includes installation. When the lease is up, out
goes the charger.
We had a chance to toodle around in an EV-1. Very nice. You
sit low in the saddle, but the controls are well-placed on a
center console. The speed governor is set to reach a top
speed of 70 miles an hour, but optimum battery life is
achieved traveling at about 45 mph. The car had adequate pep
and pickup, but felt like it was stuck in second gear at 45-
50 mph. Then again, it's not made to peel off the line, but
provide clean transportation for low mileage trips. We liked
the look, which was compact and sleek and the seats were
The EV-1 uses an inductive charging system. All you have to
do is stick a paddle from the charger in a slot in the
grille. Go away for a few minutes and by the time you
return, you should have enough juice to get back home.
Problems with EV's still remain. The industry hasn't yet
settled on a battery system it likes, or which charging
system will become standard: conductive or inductive.
Detroit Edison's John Olsen seems to think the public will
determine which charging system will become the "VHS."
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