Most concept vehicles are designed to test public reaction. General Motors are trying to turn that formula on its head by producing a car in reaction to what their customers wanted. That concept is the Saturn Sky, an open-air roadster, with many European styling influences. It seems America is ready for a rash of Euro-type roadsters now.
Research confirmed by GM confirmed that younger drivers want a traditional style convertible but with more practicality than the cars of old.
“The research placed a great deal of importance on fostering conversation with their friends,” commented a Saturn spokesman. “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 is easier and back seat passengers can prod the front occupants in the back of the head.
"Here’s a roadster done the Saturn way," said Jill Lajdziak, vice president of Saturn Sales, Service and Marketing. “We’ve been offering a different kind of car since our creation and now we are showing off a car the world has never seen – a stirring, open-air roadster that is an equal mix of fun and function. People can take their friends along and easily talk as they go.”
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.
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 darkens the sunlight inside the vehicle. The collapsible roof stows in the rear of the vehicle.
This concept vehicle features a supercharged 2.2-litre, 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. They call it the 'living badge'.
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. The gear stick can even be folded into the center console when the vehicle is parked.
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.”
It certainly turns a new corner for American car design. This car, and the Pontiac Solstice, hint at a new generation of cars for the American market that are a far cry from the overweight and oversized motors we're accustomed to seeing. It will also open up the roadster market for European manufacturers - manufacturers who produce some of the most stunning cars made in the world.