GM Looks to Build Better Hybrids
lass=textBodyBlack>DETROIT - General Motors Corp. said Wednesday it will build two new sport utility vehicles — the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon — using enhanced hybrid technology.
The trucks will be built in Arlington, Texas, beginning in late 2007, while the transmissions using so-called two-mode hybrid technology will be designed and manufactured at a transmission plant in Baltimore, Maryland, GM said.
The two-mode technology allows for fuel optimization, especially during highway driving at higher speeds.
GM's announcement for expanded fuel efficiency came a day after President Bush said in his State of the Union address that America was "addicted to oil" and should do more to develop alternative energy sources, like ethanol-blended gasoline and hydrogen fuel cells for cars.
Bush also plans to seek an increase in funding for clean-energy research in his 2007 budget, including money to help develop gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, which combine a gasoline engine with an electric motor and batteries to boost fuel economy.
Rick Wagoner, GM's chairman and chief executive, told reporters at the company's Allison transmission plant in Baltimore that the auto giant is in step with Bush's message.
"I think there is something in this idea of trying to pull a range of levers rather than looking for a single silver bullet," Wagoner said.
"I think the president generally put forth an optimistic view of the industry, the issues we're addressing. We have to win with great products and that's what we're trying to do," Wagoner said.
Last week, GM rival Ford Motor Co. unveiled a new hybrid research vehicle in a bid to show consumers and U.S. policy makers that the company is serious about overhauling its business and embracing fuel-saving innovations.
Its Escape Hybrid E85 is the first hybrid capable of operating on blends of fuel containing up to 85 percent ethanol, a crop-based fuel.
Ford announced proposed plant closings and layoffs last week, and GM, which lost $4.8 billion in the fourth quarter, is also restructuring.
The Detroit-based automakers are launching massive marketing campaigns to win over consumers who have embraced foreign-made hybrids and other vehicles that are more fuel efficient than the products they currently manufacture.
GM plans to invest up to $118 million to upgrade the Baltimore transmission plant, where the two-mode hybrid transmission will use two electric motors and two hybrid systems.
Originally implemented by GM in transit buses, the transmission is being advanced and adapted by BMW AG, DaimlerChrysler AG and GM for use in cars, trucks and SUVs.
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