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Just for Fun

Cadillac BLS
Fiat 500
Daewoo G2X
Holden VEute

Last time we looked at a few significant new 2008 models. This week we’ll check out a few more vehicles that are just as new, but you won’t see them here for a while (if ever).

First off, and maybe most important in the grand scheme of things, is Fiat’s new 500. You may remember the original 500 which was launched 50 years ago as Italy’s “peoples’ car,” their answer to Germany’s VW and Great Britain’s Mini. Funny how things come around; VW launched the New Beetle a few years back, followed by a new Mini (now owned by BMW). The Fiat 500, though, is probably a car more important to the survival of Fiat as a company. It will also, in the near future, mark Fiat’s re-entry into the North American market. And judging from the successes of the New Beetle and new Mini, and the rave previews of the 500, it should be a smashing success.

It’s an updated and enlarged version of the original 500, reinterpreted for the 21st century. Some might call it “cute,” but I see it appealing to both men and women, avoiding the dreaded “chick car” image that has driven many men away from other “cute” designs such as the New Beetle convertible and some versions of the Toyota Celica. Of course, this whole image thing is just in everybody’s head, and I say if you like something you should just drive it and not care what “they” say. Look for it here within the next year or two.

Something you’re not likely to see here is Cadillac’s new BLS station wagon. GM is marketing this one strictly in Europe, as it tries to build the brand into something more than an importer of cars whose sales numbers rarely get out of the four-digit range. Most of the models built and sold in North America are just too large for European roads, but others, like the CTS, are not only sized right but were designed to compete with Europe’s best sedans. Anyway, if the BLS wagon looks familiar, think “Saab.” What you’re basically looking at, and which GM touts as Cadillac’s first-ever station wagon, is largely based on the Saab 9-3. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s just another case of badge engineering by GM, as they continue to try to be all things to all buyers at minimal cost.

A vehicle I’d bet my paycheck you’ll never see imported here it Holden’s VE ute. Holden is the Australian arm of General Motors; a “ute” is what they call a utility vehicle down under. Think Chevy El Camino or Ford Ranchero. The VE is a Holden Commodore sedan restyled with the back end of a pickup, for carrying light loads. Not quite a pickup truck, you see. A ute. The Commodore, by the by, was the basis of the latest reiteration of the Pontiac GTO, and will also supply the soon-to-come new Pontiac G8 (a replacement for the departed Bonneville).

Speaking of Pontiac, you Solstice fans (and Saturn Sky fans) might be amused to see that GM is now selling a version of your favorite car in South Korea, and it’s called the Daewoo G2X.

See, the world really is getting smaller!

Until next time…