Hybrid Vue Delayed

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General Motors recently revised its production plans for its much-touted series of hybrid electric vehicles. As a result, the Saturn Vue - which was to be the first hybrid SUV - will play a much smaller role in the company's plans. GM will instead add a so-called "strong hybrid" powertrain to its next-generation full-size sport-utility vehicles and pick-up trucks. The full-size vehicles are a key part of GM's strategy for using technology to increase efficiency on its most popular, high-volume products.

With the addition of the full-size truck hybrid program, the advanced hybrid system announced for the 2005 Vue earlier this year has been discontinued. That system was reportedly able to give the Vue a 50% boost in fuel economy. GM's new plan calls for the Saturn Vue to get GM's more traditional Belt Alternator Starter (BAS) hybrid system coupled to a CVT in spring of 2006. This system will get an estimated fuel-economy improvement of 12% to 15% in the Vue. The strong hybrid full-size SUVs and pick-ups, which debut in 2007, also will feature GM's Displacement on Demand cylinder deactivation technology. Together the technologies will achieve a fuel economy improvement of about 30%.

"As we've said before, GM's strategy is to go after the highest fuel consuming vehicles first," said Thomas G. Stephens, group vice president, GM Powertrain. "We believe this strong hybrid on a full-size truck will save twice as much fuel per mile as a comparable small hybrid vehicle - with no compromise in performance or utility."

Hybrids represent the mid-term component of GM's integrated propulsion strategy. GM also has a lot of activity on short-term technologies aimed at fuel-economy improvements on the internal combustion engine, including Displacement on Demand, continuously variable transmissions, alternative fuels and clean diesels. These technologies also are important stepping-stones to GM's ultimate goal of hydrogen fuel cells.

"The advanced technology race is a marathon, not a sprint," said Larry Burns, vice president, Research & Development and Planning. "The technology we're announcing today will provide significant fuel savings on some of our most popular vehicles, without sacrificing performance."

Source: General Motors, Tennessean

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