FIRST OF THE 82'sFirst of the 82's

Whoosh! The first of the '82-model US cars are on the road, even as carmakers are pushing hard to sell the '81's. With a roar that resembles the space-shuttle launch, General Motors and Ford Motor Company have introduced two new "space era" cars -- GM the compact J-car and Ford the 2-seater EXP and Mercury LN7. Both are aimed at the high-flying imports, particularly the Japanese.

The GM J-car is known as the Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac J-2000, and Cadillac Cimarron.Buick and Oldsmobile will get their own versions in a year. The Cavalier and J-2000 come as a 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan, 3-door hatchback, and 4-door wagon.

The EXP ($7,253 base price) and LN7 ($7,750) are Ford's first two-seaters since the classic 1955-57 Thunderbirds.

Meanwhile, the domestic automakers are committing multibillions of dollars on new products over the next few years, hoping to dislodge the grip which the imports have on the US marketplace.

Ford plans to revamp the Fairmont in 1983, for example, as part of its plan to combine the LTD, Fairmont, and Granada into two car lines by 1985. GM is phasing in a stream of new cars while Chrysler and American Motors/Renault will develop new products in a heavy-duty effort to appeal to the buyer.

The immediate job is to sell more 1981 cars before the rest of the '82s bow in the fall.

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