Hoping to achieve a truly global platform, General Motors is developing a new front-drive compact architecture to extend over a variety of models. Vehicle line executive for the architecture Peter Mertens said, “we are doing a completely new platform that has a huge bandwidth.” The new structural design is expected to appear in the U.S. and Europe around 2009.

Current vehicles scheduled to use the new architecture include the next Saturn Astra and Opel Zafira replacement. The Chevrolet Volt plug-in due in 2010 will also use the new architecture, however the Cobalt which uses the current Delta design, may shift to the new Gamma platform. Also planned to use the new architecture is a compact minivan for Chevrolet, a premium model Buick for China, some African and South American models, and a Daewoo for South Korea. There could be a possible Saab too, reports Automotive News.

According to consulting firm Global Insight Inc. GM should produce 1.2 million units per year with the new architecture by 2012. The new platform aims to remove the problems GM had with global regions making extensive changes to some models, meaning they couldn’t be produced in one plant and exported. But Mertens says vehicles made with the new architecture will share sheet metal no matter what region they are headed to, only differentiating themselves with badging, powertrains, standard equipment, chassis tuning and safety features.

Despite this, vehicles will retain their regional individualism in terms of driving characteristics. “If you drive them next to each other, you will certainly see there is a difference in chassis performance between an Opel and a Chevy or between a Buick and a Chevy,” he said. “Each is engineered to compete against very specific competitors.”