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Detroit show: GMC takes a new turn with Granite

Rock on: GMC's baby Granite is based on the Holden-designed Orlando concept.

Granite concept embodies new GM direction – a little hatch for rough-and-tumble GMC

GMC logo14 Jan 2010

By TERRY MARTIN

LESS than two weeks after posting its lowest annual sales in the US since 1982, General Motors wheeled out a production-oriented concept car that embodied, more than most other models on its Detroit stand, the reborn auto giant’s new direction in the new decade – a little hatchback for its big, bold GMC brand.

Built from the same Delta II platform as the Cruze small car and based on the Australian-designed Chevrolet Orlando, the GMC Granite presented at the North American International Auto Show this week stands as the smallest – and meekest – GMC ever, but one with an interesting industrial exterior design, versatile interior and economical engine.

At 4097mm in overall length, the Granite is 600mm shorter (a full two feet to the Americans) than GMC’s new Terrain crossover – the next size up – and will be a litmus test for how much US consumers can stand to have the GMC brand watered down.

GM acknowledges that the “urban-industrial design aesthetic” and packaging are aimed at young professionals and takes the brand’s “trademark capability in a new, more progressive direction”. But it is not repentant.

“Granite was conceived as a new type of vehicle from GMC – one that could stretch people’s ideas of what a GMC can be,” said GMC product marketing director Lisa Hutchinson.

“We call it an ‘urban utility vehicle’ and our goal was redefining what the GMC name could mean to a new generation of customers looking for both bold design and functionality.”

93 center imageChallenging the GMC customer stereotype, GM describes its target audience for Granite as urban professionals “more likely to take friends to clubs and load outdoor gear on weekend excursions than to haul lumber or tow a boat”.

The interior is said to be spacious and versatile, with generous cargo space and a unique seat-fold arrangement that can accommodate items such as mountain bikes.

For example, the front passenger and the rear seat directly behind flip up and fold in toward the centre console, creating a long, unobstructed storage space.

Cabin access is also made simple with reverse-hinged rear doors and the absence of a B-pillar.

Up front, the cockpit has hi-tech features, such as extra-wide organic LED screens for the climate, navigation and infotainment systems.

“We think of the Granite as the automotive equivalent of an urban loft apartment,” said executive director of North American interior and global cross-brand design, Dave Lyon.

“The exterior has an unmistakable industrial look, but the interior is warm and personalised.”

Power comes from the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine (paired with a six-speed manual gearbox) that features on the new US Cruze and will also be part of the Holden Cruze line-up when the small car enters Australian production in March 2011.

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