GM Exec Insists Plug-In SUV Still in Works – Even With Saturn's Demise

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Last year, when the carsplosion really started to hit the fan, GM came before congress and laid it all out bare begging for help. And months later, after some tumultuous change, we have a completely new GM about to emerge from bankruptcy — but now the question is, with its reduced size, influence and output, can GM actually deliver on many of the products that were promised when GM came begging way back when?

As part of GM’s original restructuring plan the company said that it would launch 14 new hybrid models by 2012. The highest profile of these launches will be, of course, the Chevy Volt, which GM still says will see the light of day by late 2010.

But GM had also previously announced plans to make a plug-in hybrid SUV based on the popular Saturn Vue platform and release it by 2011. Now that Saturn no longer exists (at least as part of the restructured GM), speculation was running rampant that GM would drop its plans for a plug-in SUV completely. But once again, GM has gone out of their way to knock down any speculation.

In a Reuters article, GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens, said that even though the Saturn brand name will disappear from the GM lineup, the technology development is ongoing and will be implemented in one of the remaining GM brands: Chevy, Cadillac, Buick or GMC.

In the article Stephens also eluded to the fact that the first generation models of these new hybrids will seem ridiculously expensive, but shrugged off criticism that the expense would doom them saying:

“If I had to go with my first generation, we couldn’t really pencil a business case. Any new technology is expensive, but if you get to the second or third generation you find that the cost goes way down.”

Only time will tell if GM is blowing more than smoke, but based on what the market seems to demand these days, a plug-in hybrid SUV (at a reasonable cost) would likely be a huge hit with enviro-conscious families.

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.