General Motors may be putting its reputation and future profitability on the line with the upcoming 2011 Chevrolet Volt (pictured), but it's actually the Volt's underpinnings that could end up being GM's saving grace. Like Chrysler's compact K-car platform that lasted throughout much of the 1980s, GM's Delta platform is the company's best shot at not only getting back into profitability, but also once again offering competitive entry-level vehicles. In addition to the Chevrolet Volt and its Opel Ampera counterpart, the Chevrolet Cruze is expected to be just one of a handful of future vehicles riding on this platform including production versions of concept vehicles such as the Chevrolet Orlando and Saab 9-1.
Back in 1981, Chrysler was in a very similar situation that it is once in again along with GM. As Chrysler's CEO, Lee Iacocca stepped in and introduced the K-car platform which sold well for the Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler brands. As was the case with the K-car derivatives, it will take a stylish, fuel-efficient and value-laden vehicle such as the Cruze to bring GM back to profitability from the brink of bankruptcy. Not just a small sedan platform, the K-car was a versatile and profitable chassis that underpinned a wide range of vehicles from sedans, coupes and minivans, and GM could use such a chassis on vehicles such as a production MPV such as the Chevy Orlando or a sport compact coupe similar to the Saab 9-1X concept vehicle. Since GM and Saab will be parting ways before such a vehicle could come to fruition, a similarly sized vehicle could join Pontiac's lineup since that brand is becoming the niche brand of GM and it would add a unique vehicle to Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealership showrooms. GM's Voltec technology will ride on a modified Delta II platform, but with an estimated starting MSRP of close to $40,000, the Chevrolet Volt and its extended range electric vehicle (EREV) drivetrain won't be profitable or mainstream sellers for years to come.
Another vehicle platform that will also be crucial to GM's future is its Epsilon II platform that underpins the Opel Insignia and 2010 Buick LaCrosse. The Epsilon II platform was designed by GM Europe at Opel's headquarters in RÃ¼sselsheim, Germany. This will give the car a more luxurious, European ride while offering an affordable, midsize sedan. With GM planning to whittle down its brands in the U.S. from eight to just four, both the Episolon II and Delta II platforms can be spread more readily among the remaining brands without watering it down excessively. The only other car planned to share the Epislon II platform in the U.S. is the eight generation of the Chevrolet Malibu which is expected to launch in 2011.
The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze will go on sale sometime next year as a replacement for the Chevrolet Cobalt, while the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt EREV will go on sale next November. The 2010 Buick LaCrosse goes on sale this fall.