The two-mode gearbox, which has two electric motors inside, looks like a regular rwd transmission in size and shape.
Any automaker could easily install it by changing the removable interface where the transmission bolts to the engine and the tailshaft.
GM didn't reveal much about the technology inside the transmission. One of the electric motors drives the vehicle at low speeds, while the other sends power to the wheels at highway speeds.
Grewe said the two-mode technology is also being developed for front-wheel-drive vehicles.
At a ceremony last week to award production to GM's transmission plant on the outskirts of Baltimore, GM CEO Rick Wagoner said the company is investing about $118 million to tool up for production.
Wagoner said it isn't likely that GM could pull ahead production of the hybrid transmission to take advantage of consumers' growing interest in fuel-efficient vehicles. He said GM would not risk quality in the interest of speed to market.
"This is all-new technology, and we need to make sure that when it comes out it works perfectly. People expect that of us. We are going to stay focused on the date we've got right now," Wagoner said.
The two-mode system will be GM's fourth hybrid powertrain. GM builds diesel-electric hybrid city buses and gasoline-electric Chevrolet and GMC pickups, and it is slated to start production of the Saturn Vue hybrid in August.
Fuel economy for a two-wheel-drive Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid would be close to 28 mpg on the highway.
You may e-mail Richard Truett at [email protected]