GM Speeding Up Turbo, Electric Vehicle Plans

More four-cylinder engine capacity; cuts in trucks, SUVs

General Motors Corp. presented a series of “strategic initiatives” to shareholders this week, long- and medium-term projects to develop fuel-efficient vehicles, in particular for the U.S. market. GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner told shareholders this week the company would be introducing a new compact car program for Chevrolet, a new version of the Chevrolet Aveo, and adding U.S. capacity for producing the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

That engine — to be produced at GM Powertrain’s Flint, MI, operation — will be the core of Chevy’s new compact vehicle, which will begin production in 2010 at the automaker’s assembly plant in Lordstown, OH. With a manual transmission, the engine is projected to achieve a 9-mpg improvement in fuel efficiency over Chevy’s current compact offerings.

GM said the new compact will set quality and safety benchmarks for its vehicle class. "This car will represent the first U.S. application of our global architecture strategy," chairman Wagoner stated. "This strategy will pay major dividends as we leverage our extensive car product development capability in Europe, Korea, and other locations to accelerate the shift in our U.S. product portfolio."

The automaker also approved a new version of its Chevy Aveo global car program, which will become available domestically late in 2010.

Also, GM formally approved commercial production of the Chevy Volt electric vehicle, a decision that includes funding for production development and tooling, and manufacturing of the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries. GM plans to build the Volt at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center.

All of these moves will be preceded by adjustments in current capacity. GM will add third shifts this fall at Michigan’s Orion Assembly Center (Chevy Malibu and Pontiac G6) and Lordstown (Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5), but expects to cease production in 2009 at the Oshawa (ON) Truck Assembly Center (Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra), and in 2010 at the Moraine, OH, assembly plant (Chevy TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Saab 9-7x).

Also, the GM truck plant in Janesville, WI, will cease production of medium-duty trucks in 2009, and of the Chevy Tahoe, Suburban, and Yukon in 2010. Chevrolet Kodiak medium-duty trucks will end their production run in Toluca, Mexico, this year.

GM’s Hummer brand has been placed under “strategic review”; the automaker states it is considering all options for the future of the brand, including a complete product revamp, or a sell-off.

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