The 2003 Studebaker XUV Story, Part II


We introduced the Studebaker XUV in Part I of this series, a concept SUV for which Avanti Motors was immediately sued upon by GM upon its debut. Barred from producing any H2-esque vehicle, their chairman thought up a way to differentiate the XUV in the marketplace: Make it “feminine!”

Responding to the poetic legalese that came from GM’s lawyer, then-chairman of Avanti the upstanding Michael Kelly claimed GM spoke too soon. His first claim: The SUV was still a work in progress and in concept form, can’t tell if it’s going to look like a Hummer, can we? At ease, lawyers.

Avanti sent out a press release in February that addressed the differences between the Studebaker XUV and the Hummer H2. Take a look.

The most unusual details in the release are the sheer length of the XUV, at two feet longer than the H2. The sliding van-like rear side doors and sliding roof panel are also odd. Worth noting, while the Wagonaire did have a retractable roof panel, but did not offer rear sliding doors. Guess Kelly didn’t research his company’s past product that thoroughly. Also of note, two products can look very similar without sharing any parts, as anyone who’s seen Chinese vehicles from the past couple of decades can attest.

Speaking to The Chicago Tribune, Kelly followed up after the settlement with an explanation of changes made to the XUV, and how it wasn’t all that similar to the H2 in the first place. He then made some statements on gender and stereotyping: “We thought the majority of people it would appeal to were men, but at the auto show we found the reaction was greater from, I wouldn’t call them soccer moms, but rather middle-age moms who still have kids in school.”

As a result of these “middle-age moms” preferences (and not at all because of the GM suit), Avanti made some visual changes. Per Kelly, “They [these women] wanted more elegance and less a man’s man-type vehicle like Hummer.” So Avanti made some changes so the XUV would appeal to this special group: Hood scoops and vents went away, the previously enormous six-inch gas cap was downsized and painted, hood latches were no longer on the exterior, the windshield angle was relaxed, and the size of the windows was increased.

Now with female-approved styling, the XUV could go on and enter production, right? Next time we’ll talk about lofty goals and the basis for a revised behemoth that was ready for the moms.

[Images: Avanti Motors]

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