Saying it wants to slake the thirst of rental-car customers for pillowy crossovers, General Motors will exhume the Saturn Vue, slap a Chevy grille on it and sell it as the Captiva later this year for fleets only. Say what?
Offered with either a 2.4-liter four or 3-liter six-cylinder engine, the Mexican-built Captiva neé Vue was already in service in other countries, so re-making it for U.S. regulations probably cost next to nothing. The Chevy Equinox small SUV is one of GM's strongest sellers, and doesn't need to be dumped in fleets, so GM didn't have much for rental agencies to shop. But why look this desperate?
Fleet vehicles typically roll into a rental fleet for prices roughly equal to what they cost to build; they're what automakers sell to keep a plant running rather than cut capacity. Bringing back an old model, even as a fleet-only, could tarnish the blessed "brands" GM's spending so much to polish. It's like Steve Jobs suddenly deciding the iPhone needs a flip version with buttons to rack up all those sales from behind the counter at 7-11.
And those Captivas will stay in fleets only a year or so before hitting the used-car lots, where they'll have rock-bottom prices compared to the Equinox and most other vehicles that are far more up-to-date. That may be part of the equation as well; with used vehicle prices sky-high, GM sees a fairly risk-free, low-cost way to bolster its sales figures by a few thousand. Every little bit helps — except when it doesn't.