GM seeks hybrid credits, consistent rules

dbarkholz@crain.com

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — General Motors believes the federal government can ease the auto industry's transition to alternative fuels and higher fuel economy, said Beth Lowery, GM vice president of environment, energy and safety policy.

The automaker would like tax credits for buyers of alternative-fuel vehicles, Lowery told an audience last week at the Management Briefing Seminars here. The tax credits would help coax consumers to try new technologies such as the Chevrolet Volt plug-in, the hybrid electric car that GM expects to roll out in 2010.

The feds also could help the industry by enforcing a single fleet fuel-economy standard to prevent states such as California from setting their own rules, she said.

California has proposed a 42.5-mpg fleet average by 2020, while the federal standard has been raised to 35 mpg.

If California gets a waiver to permit the higher standard, it could embolden other states to enact a hodgepodge of rules that would force the automakers to respond, said Mike Stanton, president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers. The group represents Toyota, Honda, Nissan and 11 other import-brand automakers. Stanton spoke on the same panel as Lowery.

GM is working on an array of fuel-saving technologies to appeal to consumers in the era of $4-a-gallon gasoline, Lowery said.

Long-range plug-in vehicles such as the Volt could save owners $1,700 a year in fuel costs, Lowery said. The average vehicle today costs about 14 cents a mile in fuel at $4.20 a gallon of gasoline. An electric vehicle costs about 2 cents a mile, she said.

GM also is introducing several more models capable of running on a combination of gasoline and ethanol to lower emissions and U.S. oil dependence, Lowery said.

Lowery said bringing alternative-fuel vehicles to market will require collaboration with utilities and other energy producers to make it convenient for consumers to get the fuels they need. c

You can reach David Barkholz at dbarkholz@crain.com

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