Vauxhall Meriva weighs up US role

Published: 18 November 2009

This Opel Meriva mule has been spotted on test in the US, suggesting that GM is weighing up using the European mini-MPV hardware for a US-specific model. Currently, only larger Opel/Vauxhall platforms cross the Atlantic.

Some observers speculate that this hacked-about test car could spawn a new small crossover sired in Detroit. For sure, we can discount the Meriva bodywork appearing unchanged – for starters, the new Euro-spec Meriva is only a few months away from its motor show debut in early 2010, when it will appear with kinked side windowline and rear suicide doors.

This Meriva scooped in the US has been cut and shut aplenty, and sits on a noticeably wider track.

So what would this supposed US-spec small crossover be badged as?

It’s not clear at this stage. Our sources suggest that a Buick badge is a possibility, but a Chevrolet version is thought unlikely. Whatever the name and market positioning, the existence of this test mule in North America suggests that the new GM is gearing up its plan to pursue a more world car approach to product development.

It’s a strategy espoused by arch rival Ford, which is now launching the new Fiesta in the US and around the globe (next year’s 2010 Focus will follow suit). Gone are the days of having expensively engineered cars for one territory and duplicated copycats created separately on another continent.

How is GM faring as a new standalone company?

The General this week announced a $1.15 billion loss after tax in its first 83 days since it exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy, taking it up to the end of September 2009.

Although still a massive loss, it is smaller than some analysts feared and GM announced it would start repaying government loans in the US and Canada. Chief exec Fritz Henderson also said that the search for a new boss of the now-embraced Opel Vauxhall European division ‘would take months not weeks’.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet