The 2003 Studebaker XUV Story, Part I


In part five of our six-part series on the Studebaker Avanti, I mentioned a concept the company debuted in the early 2000s, the XUV. A Big Tough Truck styled almost-just-like the crazy popular Hummer H2, consumers weren’t the only party to take notice. Let’s talk lawsuit.

The XUV was introduced during the second to last iteration of Avanti Motors, during the time the firm was based in Georgia and building Camaro (then Mustang) bastardized versions of the Avanti. Seeking to capitalize on the SUV boom, the company trademarked the XUV (Xtreme Utility Vehicle) name, then debuted it early in 2003. With their announcement came the proclamation the XUV would begin production in the fall of 2003.

First shown via a press photo that looked like a painting, the big yellow XUV was poised on rocks, ready to conquer the parking lot at the local Olive Garden. It declared the Avanti company was redefined, restored, and reinvented. The company followed up with a Studebaker display at the 2003 Chicago Auto Show. There, an orange XUV was shown amongst some rocks and parked next to the current Avanti. The date was February 10th.

Word of the XUV’s debut spread to General Motors rather quickly, and the company had a lawsuit in process before the close of the month. GM’s charges were pretty direct: The XUV “knocked off and misappropriated the shape of the Hummer H2.” The lawyer who managed the suit on GM’s side stated “GM won’t allow others to profit from and capitalize upon the enormous popularity and goodwill developed in the Hummer H2 by copying its trade dress.” The claim makes perfect sense to those of you who remember just how hot the H2 was at the time.

By early August 2003, the lawsuit was settled with a couple of very definite wins for GM. Avanti managed to keep itself out of any boiling water, but things were still hot. Avanti had agreed to a permanent injunction: The company was barred from producing any SUV similar to the Hummer H2.

But they still planned to move forward with the XUV, undeterred by this legal action. Their truck would be different – very different – to the Hummer H2. And how? Women, of course. More on that in Part II.

[Image: Avanti Motors]

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