By Grant Yoxon

Detroit, Michigan – General Motors gave North American news media an advance look at new products that it plans to unveil in Detroit next month during the North American International Auto Show.

At a preview held Wednesday evening in downtown Detroit, Chevrolet took the wraps off several new vehicles that will appear in showrooms for 2011 including the Camaro convertible, Aveo compact, the Spark sub-compact, the Orlando compact crossover utility vehicle and the all-new 2011 Chevrolet Malibu. Photography and video were forbidden at the event so we’ll have to wait until the Detroit auto show to get the pics.

The Camaro convertible, displayed with top down, was not unexpected, but a substantially revised Malibu took everyone by surprise. It’s been just three years since the Malibu underwent a total overhaul and that iteration was well-received by both the media and the buying public. But Chevrolet is intent on keeping the Malibu out front in the fiercely competitive mid-size sedan market. The mock-up on display showed more sculptured body work, crisper edges in the metal (similar to Cadillac), pronounced wheel arches and a BMW-like raised rear deck.

For 2011, the Aveo gets up-sized into the compact car segment, while production will move the United States. Though designed in Korea, the Aveo will be built in several plants around the world for different markets. On display was a sharp looking hatchback mock-up that could have been pegged as a replacement for the defunct Pontiac Vibe. The Aveo will also be available as a four door sedan.

Also designed and built in Korea is the new Chevrolet Spark. The sub-compact on display at the Chevrolet preview is not far off the concepts shown at various auto shows around the world last year and versions are already on sale in Europe and Asia. Designed with a youthful market in mind, the display car featured bright green paintwork and matching interior inserts and fabrics. A unique gauge cluster that featured a huge tachometer and digital speedometer is mounted to the steering column.

The Orlando, shown at last year’s Detroit Auto Show, will be revealed in production trim this January. The mock-up we saw is very similar to last year’s show car. Based on the Aveo, the Orlando will feature seven-passenger seating and four-cylinder power. It will compete against vehicles like the Mazda5 and Dodge Journey.

GMC will also reveal its version of the Orlando at the Detroit auto show. Dubbed the Granite, the “urban utility vehicle” would be the smallest GMC ever built. Targeted to a younger demographic than the Orlando, the Granite has the kind of features that will help GM compete against other urban utilities like the Honda Element, Kia Soul and Nissan Cube.

Rounding out the pre-show previews was a sport version of the Buick Regal, revealed at the LA auto show just two weeks ago. Based on the Opel Insignia, the new sporty Regal will draw many of its performance parts from the 325-hp Opel Insignia OPC. The Regal will be built in Europe next year while GM’s Oshawa, Ontario plant is tooled up. It is expected that North American Regal production will switch to Oshawa for the 2012 model year.

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