General Motors Corp. started production Monday
of its two-mode gas-electric hybrid transmission systems that will
debut in the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and GMC Yukon Hybrid sport
Built at the automaker's Baltimore Transmission plant, the hybrid
system will help GM compete against Toyota Motor Corp., which sells
hybrid versions of the Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX SUVs, and Ford
Motor Co., which offers the Escape Hybrid SUV.
GM officials said it was the first hybrid transmission to be
developed in the United States and noted that three-fourths of its
content came from U.S.-based suppliers.
John Buttermore, GM Powertrain's vice-president of global
manufacturing, said the hybrid systems were part of the company's
efforts to offer more fuel-efficient vehicles powered by an
assortment of energy sources, including ethanol, electricity and
``We view this as an extraordinary opportunity, a chance, in
essence, to reinvent the auto industry through technology and
innovation and ultimately take the automobile out of the
environmental debate,'' Buttermore said.
The two-mode hybrid system, developed jointly by GM, BMW AG and
the former DaimlerChrysler AG, uses a computer to choose from
thousands of combinations of running on one electric motor, two
electric motors, a combination of electric motors and the gasoline
engine, or shutting down some of the gas engine's cylinders.
The vehicles, to be built at GM's plant in Arlington, Texas, are
expected to have an overall fuel economy of about 21 miles per
gallon (about nine kilometres per litre), the same as the city fuel
economy of the 4-cylinder Toyota Camry. It will provide a 30 per
cent increase in fuel economy compared with similar non-hybrid
versions of the Tahoe and Yukon.
Pricing has not yet been announced for the new hybrids, which are
expected to arrive at dealerships in December. Buttermore declined
to give the expected production volumes, telling reporters that
``we're going to try to be flexible and adaptable and see where the
market wants to take it.''
The Maryland plant, which received a US$118 million upgrade to
produce the transmissions, also is scheduled to build hybrid systems
for other hybrid vehicles next year, including the Cadillac Escalade
SUV and the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra crew cab pickups.
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