General Motors Corp. said Thursday its 2007 model year lineup will include a new hybrid system, a fuel-saving V-6 and 14 models — or about 400,000 total vehicles — that can run on E85 ethanol, compared with nine models in 2006.
New ethanol-capable vehicles are the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans, the Chevrolet Uplander minivan and two more models that haven’t yet been announced, spokeswoman Susan Garavaglia said. GM already has nearly 2 million ethanol-capable vehicles on the road.
The 2007 Chevrolet Impala will have GM’s first V-6 engine with a system that saves fuel by automatically operating on fewer cylinders when the vehicle isn’t carrying a heavy load. Previously the system was only available with V-8 engines.
An Impala with the new 3.9-liter V-6 will get an estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway, improvements of more than 5 percent over the current model, GM said.
GM’s 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line, due out this summer, will have a new gas-electric hybrid system which GM says will use up to 20 percent less fuel than a traditional Saturn Vue.
GM has been promoting the Green Line as a less expensive alternative to hybrids already on the market from Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. The Green Line’s hybrid system adds around $2,000 to the cost of a Saturn Vue, compared with a premium of $3,500 or more for other hybrids.
Like other gas-electric hybrids, the Green Line saves on gas consumption by shutting off the engine while idling, giving the vehicle a boost of electric power during acceleration and capturing electrical energy when the vehicle is braking. GM brought down the price by making a simpler system that doesn’t run on electric power for as long as other hybrids. The Green Line will get an estimated 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, compared with 33 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway for the Highlander.
GM is developing a more advanced hybrid system in a partnership with DaimlerChrysler AG and BMW AG. The hybrid system from that partnership is scheduled to debut on the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe later this year.
GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said in an interview last week that he thinks GM’s strategy of having several hybrid options is a good one and will make up for the fact that GM has trailed Toyota and other rivals in bringing hybrids to market. GM has been steadily losing U.S. market share to Asian rivals.
“It’s fun to be first in an early-stage technology. It’s more important to be right, and I think we have a well-thought out approach,” he said. “I think (the Vue and the Tahoe) will show people that we can play with anybody on technology. We’ll see how the market plays out.”
GM also is expanding the number of vehicles with six-speed automatic transmissions. The technology is being added to the Saturn Aura sedan, Saturn Outlook sport utility vehicle, Pontiac G6 and Cadillac STS and SRX.
GM says the six-speeds offer better fuel economy and performance and smoother shifting than traditional four-speeds. They also cut down on wear by reducing engine revolutions per minute.