General Motors wants to regain the lead in Europe's huge upper-medium segment with its new Vectra.
To help it succeed, a fourth body style will be introduced: a coupe-station wagon very close to the Signum 2 concept car seen at September's Frankfurt auto show.
Previous Vectras have only been available in sedan, hatchback and station wagon forms.
'There is always room for something different,' said Opel Design Director Hans Seer. 'The new model will be a mix of coupe and station wagon with an individual character.'
The second-generation Vectra, launched in summer 1995, dominated the upper-medium segment from 1996 to 1998.
But in 1999 the VW Passat outsold it with 323,415 units against 290,957 Vectras. The gap widened in 2000 to 272,564 Passats against 229,698 Vectras.
The new Vectra is the first car to be built in Europe off of GM's new global Epsilon platform. Saab's 9-3 replacement and Fiat's 'New Large' car will also use the platform. In the USA, Epsilon will debut on the Chevrolet Malibu replacement.
The four Vectra variants will use two different wheelbases:
* The four-door sedan and five-door sporty GTS are based on the standard 2700mm wheelbase. With the same overall length of 4600mm, they share everything apart from front and rear bumpers, rear door upper frame, roof, rear fenders and tailgate. They will be shown at the Geneva auto show in March 2002. The sedan will go on sale soon after. The GTS will follow in the summer.
* The station wagon and Signum are based on a longer, 2830mm wheelbase. These two versions share the same body panels as the sedan and GTS until the B-pillar is reached. Roof, rear fenders, tailgate and rear lamps - and rear doors for the wagon - are specific to these two versions. The overall length of the station wagon is 4820mm; the Signum's 4630mm. The Signum will go on sale in spring 2003 and the station wagon the following autumn.
Opel will build 180,000 Vectras in 2002 and 320,000 units in 2003. Opel expects the Vectra's average annual volume to be 350,000 units over its life cycle.
Opel said the Vectra sedan and GTS required E1 billion for research and development and E700 million for tooling at the plants in Russelsheim, Germany, and Ellesmere Port, England. Opel invested another E800 million in the new portion of the Russelsheim plant dedicated to the Vectra. Installed capacity is 270,000 units a year, building all four Vectra body styles.
Ellesmere Port was completely renovated with a E490 million investment. It will only make the Vectra sedan and GTS.
The new Vectra will be launched with a familiar 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, 122hp engine. It will also be available with a new 2.2-liter, four-cylinder, 147hp engine - a product of GM's global L850 project.
The 3.2-liter, 211hp V-6 will only be offered on the sporty GTS.
The Vectra will also be available with 2.0- and 2.2-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesels, producing 100hp and 125hp respectively.
Engines to be added later include direct-injection versions of the 2.2-liter gasoline and turbocharged units. No V-8 gasoline engine is planned.
In the second half of 2002, the Vectra will get two new common-rail diesels from the GM-Fiat Powertrain joint venture. One will be a four-valve-per-cylinder, 1.9-liter, four-cylinder unit; the other a 2.4-liter, five-cylinder. An Isuzu-built 3.0-liter V-6 common-rail diesel will also be added.
The Vectra debuts with two five-speed gearboxes: a manual and an automatic with manual shift function. In September 2002, a continuously variable transmission developed by GM will be added for the 1.8-liter gasoline version. A six-speed manual is also expected.
The Vectra will remain front-wheel drive only. A four-wheel-drive version was never planned.
- Chris Wright contributed