Avanti Motor Corp. Chairman Michael E. Kelly first heard
of General Motors’ legal actions against his company,
the largest of only a handful of independent automakers
in the United States, the first thing he thought of was
the legendary battle of David and Goliath.
Kelly had just unveiled the Studebaker XUV (for "Xtreme
Utility Vehicle"), his Georgia-based company’s
first foray into the Sport Utility market at the Chicago
Auto Show, when he heard that GM sought to have his company
remove the XUV from the show. When show officials said no,
GM sought court injunctions to not only keep Avanti from
displaying the XUV at the Chicago Auto Show, but to stop
Avanti from displaying the XUV at any auto show. What Kelly
described in his intial media response as "GM’s
bullish ways" didn’t work in the first two rounds
A June court date has been set for GM’s subsequent
lawsuit to block Avanti’s manufacture of the Studebaker
XUV, which it claims, "knocks off" the shape of
GM’s Hummer H2 and will confuse the public. In the
interim, experts and non-experts alike have been filling
up the bleachers on the new Avanti’s side of the field,
and some of the support for the new "David" --
in contrast to GM’s "Goliath" --has come
from unexpected places.
An online poll by the Atlanta Journal Constitution asked
"which would you drive?" and of the 4,429 that
responded with a preference, 84 percent chose the Studebaker.
But that wasn’t a case of home-field advantage; another
online poll in GM’s own "backyard" also
fell to makers of the XUV. The Detroit News asked its online
readers who should win the lawsuit, and more than 52.62
percent said the Studebaker XUV.
Weighing in with more detailed opinions were experts in
the automotive field, including Edward Lapham, editor of
Automotive News, who noted in a March 3 editorial: "GM
is bearing down on Avanti Motor Corp., a tiny Georgia company
that makes the Raymond Loewy-designed Avanti sports car,
which Studebaker produced a generation ago. The company
builds about 150 Avantis annually. C’mon GM. Lighten
Lapham expounded on his editorial in a recent interview
in the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, saying that GM’s
lawsuit "seems senseless."
In the same story, reporter Ashley McCall quotes Karl Brauer
of Edmunds.com, a car rating service, as saying that "if
GM can sue Avanti over this, there’s like five other
companies that can file lawsuits based on the same thing.
Would you want to start a legal precedent like that?"
He added that, in his opinion, the suit brought (and recently
settled) against GM by DaimlerChrysler regarding the H2
grille was a stronger contender than the present suit against
Entries on the Detroit publication’s bulletin board
also seem to lean toward the Avanti, as seen is these posts:
of Kerrville, Tx: "Come on, GM, grow up!"
of Langley, Va.: "There are no new shapes in the
world, just different ways of combining them, some better
of Perry, Mich.: "The (Studebaker) looks better
than the Hummer and different on the front end. Good luck
to the manufacturer. Let them roll."
of Massapequa, N.Y.: "I am rooting for Avanti in
this case. It seems to me that GM is trying to shut down
the Studebaker name as they did in the early 60s. Clearly,
these two modern vehicles are different."
Lee": "Sounds like (Preston) Tucker all over
of Washington DC: "GM realizes that this Studebaker
is the only real threat to the booming sales of the Hummer.
They have similarities because they appeal to a similar
market, but...they don’t have a legitimate gripe.
This is just a ploy by GM to avoid competition based on
merit and price -- that shouldn’t be the American
of Wheatland, Ia.: "GM has a poor case. Heck, the
first time I saw an H2 I thought it was a new style Jeep."
of Everett, Wa.: "The Avanti Studebaker XUV has
a different nose, running gear, tail lights, rear sliding
doors, and the back hatch opens different. GM has no right
Avanti Motors, now in its 40th year, currently produces
four models -- Avanti, SVO Lister, Beck 904 and arriving
this fall, the new Studebaker XUV, all of which are customized
to the buyer’s wishes, from the exterior color to
the details and leather finish of the interior.
2004 Studebaker XUV, with a power-sliding rear doors and
a power-retractable rear roof, is an evolution of the company’s
original 1963 Studebaker Wagonaire with the first rear sliding
roof in the automotive industry. Production will begin this
fall, with first deliveries planned for the end of the year.
The XUV measures 80 inches wide, 79.6 inches tall and 215.5
inches long, with a 134-inch wheelbase and a curb weight
of 6,035 lbs. It will be offered with a five-speed automatic
transmission and either a 325-horsepower, 6.0-liter turbo-diesel
V8 or a 310-hp, 6.8-liter V10 which may be equipped with
an optional supercharger, raising the engine rating to 425
more information about Avanti Motor Corp. and the vehicles
it builds, visit the company’s Web site at www.avantimotors.com.