- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

CHICAGO, Feb. 14 (UPI) — Avanti Motor Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Kelly stirred up a hornet's nest this week when he introduced a red prototype version of the 2004 Studebaker Xtreme Utility Vehicle at the 95th Chicago Auto Show.

A few hours after the official unveiling, show officials received call from General Motors Corp. lawyers who wanted the boxy military-styled sport utility vehicle taken off the floor because it too closely resembled GM's Hummer H2. Show officials refused.

It's a battle of the biggest.

The 5,900-pound Studebaker XUV is about 20 inches longer than the $50,000 Hummer and is powered by either a Ford 6.0-liter Turbo Diesel V-8 that gets around 13 miles per gallon city and 17 mpg highway, or a 6.8-liter Triton gasoline-fuel injection V-10 that gets between 10 mpg and12 mpg.

Kelly said he would begin accepting orders for the $75,000 monster SUV in two or three weeks and hopes to sell 1,000 the first year.

"It's for a person that's very liberal and but very much conservative. They want to be noticed but they don't want to be 'gaudy' noticed," Kelly told WBBM-AM. "It's built for the individuals."

GM filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Friday accusing Avanti Motor Corp. of trademark infringment. The suit seeks a preliminary injuction to stop Avanti Motors from manufacturing, advertising and selling the Studebaker XUV.

"It is clear that Avanti Motor Corp. is attempting to profit from and capitalize upon the enormous popularity and goodwill that GM has developed in the wildly successful H2 by knocking off the H2," said Charles Ellerbrock, a GM trademark lawyer.

Kelly said he would respond to the lawsuit Monday.

The flap is an example of what goes around comes around. Last year, DaimlerChrysler sued GM, arguing the grill design of the new Hummer was a copycat of Jeep's classic seven-slot grill.

GM bought the Hummer brand in 1999.

The Studebaker XUV will offer sliding rear doors and a standard retractable rear top that opens the back of the 80-inch wide, 79-inch-tall vehicle. Overall length is 215.5 inches with a 134-inch wheelbase.

Avanti Motors, the largest independent automaker in the United States, designed the chassis.

The Studebaker name disappeared into automotive history 37 years ago, but Kelly purchased the assets of Avanti in 1986, sold them and bought them again in 1999 to continue building about 150 handcrafted versions of Studebacker's custom sports car a year at a small plant in Villa Rica, Ga. The original Avanti was designed by Raymond Loewy in 1963 and was built in South Bend, Ind.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley officially opened the 10-day auto show to the public on Friday. More than 1 million people are expected to view more than 1,000 vehicles and automotive concepts on display in 840,000 square feet of McCormick Place before the show closes Feb. 23.

In other auto industry news:

— Ford and General Motors formally signed a pact to jointly develop a high-volume, front-wheel-drive, six-speed automatic transmission. The world's two largest automakers will share engineering and testing costs to design a common transmission that will be 4 percent more fuel efficient than traditional four-speed automatics in front-wheel drive cars and sport utility vehicles. The new gearbox will be available by mid-decade. "In addition, this agreement showcases the benefits of collaborating with other companies to help reduce development costs for a major powertrain component," said Tom Stephens, GM Powertrain group vice president.

— Ford Motor Co. Chairman and CEO William Ford Jr. agreed to sell $400,000 shares of Goldman Sachs shares he bought in a 1999 initial public offering. Ford's board determined the IPO purchase was not illegal or improper even though Ford Motor Co. had a long business relationship with the brokerage house and that Bill Ford's purchase had the appearance of an insider sweetheart deal. The stock's IPO was $53 and it closed at more than $70 the first day of public trading. The Detroit News said Ford plans to donate the $4.7 million he'll make on the stock sale to an undisclosed charity.

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