<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT"%> ROCKCRAWLER.com - Avant Sees Support Against Goliath's Lawsuit

Avanti Studebaker XUVWhen 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 with Avanti.

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 up."
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 the Studebaker.

Entries on the Detroit publication’s bulletin board also seem to lean toward the Avanti, as seen is these posts:

Sarah of Kerrville, Tx: "Come on, GM, grow up!"

Jim of Langley, Va.: "There are no new shapes in the world, just different ways of combining them, some better than others."

Robert of Perry, Mich.: "The (Studebaker) looks better than the Hummer and different on the front end. Good luck to the manufacturer. Let them roll."

John 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."

"Mr. Lee": "Sounds like (Preston) Tucker all over again."

Dave 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 way."

Mark of Wheatland, Ia.: "GM has a poor case. Heck, the first time I saw an H2 I thought it was a new style Jeep."

Doug 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 to sue."

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.

The 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 hp.

For more information about Avanti Motor Corp. and the vehicles it builds, visit the company’s Web site at www.avantimotors.com.



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