GM to place more emphasis on hybrids - Too Little Too Late

Marc

Hunkered Down for the Duration
Staff member
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#1
As it has been for many years now, too little too late:
GM to place more emphasis on hybrids: exec

Sun Oct 2, 4:52 AM ET

DETROIT, United States (AFP) - Toyota's success with hybrids has forced General Motors Corp. to put more emphasis on hybrid, gas-electric vehicles, one of the company's top executives said.

Robert Lutz, GM vice chairman and the executive responsible for product development, said GM is "pouring on the coals" on the development of hybrid vehicles.

In the past, GM's executive have expressed reservations about hybrids because of the extra cost, complexity and weight that comes with having both gas and electric motors built into the vehicle.

But while Toyota is probably still losing substantial sums on each hybrid vehicle it sells, the Japanese auto giant has gotten a big lift from the technology, Lutz said.

Toyota is now widely considered both the auto industry's technology leader and a friend of the environment.

"If Toyota had spent 300 million dollars on a corporate advertising campaign, it would have nowhere near the same effect," Lutz told reporters visiting Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan for a look at the company's 2006 model line Thursday.

Toyota kicked off a new corporate advertising campaign last week featuring its hybrid technology. Toyota executives also said they expect to make a profit on hybrids by the end of the decade.

Lutz said if gasoline prices in the United States stay high, Toyota will continue to attract more customers to the growing hybrid line, which now includes the Prius, Toyota Highlander and Lexus 400h, the first luxury hybrid.

Toyota has clearly taken a broad view of the potential of hybrid technology that encompassed major benefits from introducing the technology even if the company lost money on selling individual vehicles, Lutz said.

GM, on the other hand, took a narrower view that effectively ruled out the aggressive use of an exotic technology, Lutz said. But that has changed as GM has watched Toyota win plaudits both from financial analysts impressed by its technical prowess and environmentalists.

GM now plans to bring out a hybrid version of the Saturn Vue next summer and will introduce hybrid versions of its full-size pick up trucks and sport utility vehicles in 2007.

Lutz also told reporters that in the future GM would emphasize strong design as it developed new vehicles. Vehicle engineering would no longer be allowed to dictate a vehicle's proportions if it stood in the way of a great design, said Lutz.

"In the past, (GM) produced a lot of very excellent vehicles but somehow they didn't excite anybody," said Lutz. "I think our approach was much too rational and too analytically driven."

Lutz noted every manufacturer in the car business today sells technically excellent automobiles. The only way car makers can gain an edge now is with a strong design, he said.

"You cannot buy a bad automobile any more from any producer. We have to do more products not because we're looking at a particular segment, but because it's a great vehicle," he said.
Seems to be all the rage. See: Ford Launches Hybrid Initiative - Vows To Make 250,000 A Year by 2010
 
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