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Automotive Intelligence News

News of  August 22, 2001


 


Saturn Sky Concept Vehicle Caters To Youth

New Generation Concept Roadster Marks New Expressive Design

Saturn Sky Concept Car

Photo: Ford

PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF. – Most concept vehicles are designed to test public reaction. The Saturn Sky concept, an open-air roadster, does just the opposite.

“It’s a reaction to what young people told us they wanted,” said Dave Smith, Saturn’s newly- appointed brand character chief designer. “They said they were looking for open air and room for their friends and their stuff, balanced with a sense of responsibility. It tested so strongly. We just know this is a concept worth exploring.”

The Sky started as an idea created by General Motors’ Advanced Portfolio Exploration (APEx) team, and was further supported by research conducted by GM’s Innovative, Smart Youth Strategies (iSYS) team. That research confirmed that the old assumptions of what young people wanted were definitely outdated. Unlike the generation before it that longed for a two-passenger roadster that looked “cool” but wasn’t very practical, this generation of Saturn buyers was looking for something that was fun and functional. In designing the Sky concept the designers recognized that it not only had to turn heads, it had to get people talking. “The research placed a great deal of importance on fostering conversation with their friends,” Smith said. “So we looked at fresh approach for Saturn that would lend itself to this idea.”

The instrumentation is placed in the center of the vehicle where every passenger can see it. The headrests are arches rather than solid designs so that conversation can flow more easily from the front seat passenger to the back seat passengers.

A versatile seating package allows the Sky to convert easily from a two-place to four-place seating. The extra seats in the rear stow away underneath the tonneau cover when not in use. The Saturn Sky also provides easy entry and exit. On this concept, Saturn continues with a unique feature to the brand – a rear access door on the driver’s side. This application is borrowed from today’s Saturn coupe, the only vehicle in the market that has this innovation.

Saturn’s design philosophy is honest, friendly and intuitive, according to Smith. The “honest” design comes through in that the vehicle clearly communicates its intended use and functionality. Saturn’s signature upswept lines define the exterior, creating an inviting and friendly look. A continuous upswept line follows the hood cutline embraces the headlamps, and a wide, low front air intake is positioned underneath.

An example of the “intuitive” nature of Sky’s design is its innovative multi-piece liftoff roof is a made of a translucent material that mutes the sunlight inside the vehicle. The collapsible roof stows in the rear of the vehicle. This concept vehicle features a supercharged 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission, that generates 180 horsepower.

The headlights and taillights are powered by LED technology to give the Sky a distinctive lighting signature. The LED lamps are configured in cubes, and are smaller, lighter and require less voltage than conventional lamps. Even the Saturn badges on the Sky’s grille and front doors glow red once the car is running. “We call it the ‘living badge,’” Smith added.

Inside, Saturn designers continued with upswept character line on the steering wheel center and the door panels. The instrumentation is mounted in the center of the console, instead of the traditional location behind the steering column. This allows for a smaller steering wheel and new storage opportunities on top of the instrument panel.

These storage compartments, along with translucent, flexible storage compartments in the front and rear doors, are marked with orange tabs for easy identification. The door release doubles as an oversized safety lock when pushed, and illuminates “locked” and “unlocked.” The gear shifter on the five-speed manual transmission can be folded into the center console when the vehicle is parked for unobstructed pass-through.

According to Ed Welburn, executive director – GM Design and who oversaw the development of all the 2002 concepts, this Saturn opens the door to a new kind of roadster. “This vehicle has personality and demonstrates a real understanding of what younger customers want,” Welburn said. “Because of that, I think Sky is going to be a significant concept for Saturn.”

(August 20, 2001)

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