DETROIT -- General Motors and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. are trying to fit a diesel engine into the Saab 9-6X SUV, an effort that is likely to delay production, industry sources say.
The 9-6X is based on the same platform as Subaru's recently launched B9 Tribeca, a seven-seat SUV. Saab's version was expected to appear early next year.
Without a diesel option, Saab could find the 9-6X difficult to sell in Europe, where diesels make up nearly one-half of new-vehicle sales.
GM owns Saab and has a 20 percent stake in Fuji Heavy, which owns Subaru.
The Tribeca platform houses only Subaru's horizontally opposed 3.0-liter six-cylinder gasoline engine.
A delay of the 9-6X -- possibly by six months, sources say -- could allow design changes to add a diesel.
GM and Fuji Heavy are likely to make an announcement soon, industry sources say.
The joint vehicle project is the second between the two GM affiliates. Saab recently launched its 9-2X sports compact, which is based on the Subaru Impreza WRX and built by Fuji Heavy in Japan.
Subaru has begun building the B9 Tribeca in Lafayette, Ind. The 9-6X is scheduled to be built next year in Lafayette, plant officials say.
Subaru sees Saab production as a boon to Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. in Lafayette. Last year, Subaru of Indiana built 118,700 units, just 45 percent of its annual capacity of 262,000 units. That was the plant's lowest output since 1991, when it produced 116,299 units.
Subaru spokesman Dominick Infante said at a recent press event here that Subaru may export the B9 Tribeca to Europe, Japan and Australia. "But there is no decision at this time," Infante said.
Subaru would have to be change the Tribeca to meet regulations in other countries, he said. Fuji Heavy is considering a diesel for the Tribeca.
"When you change any engine in a car, you have to make modifications," Infante said. "It's not that it is not doable."
A Saab spokesman declined comment.
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