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GM plans 8 more crossover SUVs

General Motors Corp. plans to launch eight more crossover sport utility vehicles in the U.S. market by 2009 as it chases a bigger share of one of the fastest-growing vehicle segments.
GM
GM currently has six different crossover models, including the Chevrolet Equinox, pictured, and Cadillac SRX SUVs, selling about 430,000 of the vehicles a year.Reed Saxon / AP
/ Source: Reuters

General Motors Corp. plans to launch eight more crossover sport utility vehicles in the U.S. market by 2009 as it chases a bigger share of one of the fastest-growing vehicle segments.

Crossovers, unlike traditional truck-based SUVs designed for off-roading or hauling large trailers, are built off the same basic underpinnings as cars and tend to be more fuel efficient.

"Four years from now, we'll have 14 crossovers, accounting for about 800,000 vehicle annually or about one in every five GM vehicles sold," John Smith, the company's group vice president of global product planning, said on Thursday.

"Of course, our plans are subject to change — in this case only upwards," Smith said in a speech at an annual automotive conference in this lakefront northern Michigan resort.

GM currently has six different crossover models, including the Chevrolet Equinox and Cadillac SRX SUVs, selling about 430,000 of the vehicles a year.

GM said it plans to cut the number of "architectures," or so-called platforms off which vehicles are built, in half in the next six years to improve cost savings.

The world's largest automaker and its cross-town rival Ford Motor Co. have been hurt by this year's dramatic decline in sales of big gas-guzzling SUVs amid surging U.S. fuel prices and a shift by consumers toward crossover vehicles.

Overall U.S. sales of crossover SUVs grew nearly 15 percent to 991,095 vehicles through June this year over the same period a year ago, according to Power Information Network, a unit of J.D. Power and Associates that tracks sales.

Declining sales of the once highly-profitable mid- and full-sized SUVs were also cited as a reason by ratings agencies for cutting the debt ratings of GM and Ford to high-yield or "junk" status earlier this year.

GM faces heavy competition from domestic and foreign automakers, which are also moving fast to get more crossover vehicles on the road.

Japan's Honda Motor Co. Ltd. is the market leader in the segment with a 19 percent share, followed by Ford with 18 percent, according to J.D. Power. GM's share of the crossover SUV market was 16 percent through the first half of the year.

Smith acknowledged GM was late in entering the segment but said being "best matters more than (being) first."