DETROIT -- The death of the Saturn brand won't slow down the rollout of General Motors' plug-in hybrid powertrain, says Tom Stephens, vice chairman of GM's global product development.
After GM said on April 27 that it would stop building Saturns at the end of this year -- not 2011, as previously planned -- company sources said they knew of no other plans to use the plug-in hybrid powertrain, which had been scheduled for the Saturn Vue.
But Stephens says: "It doesn't just go away because Saturn goes away. We are going to plug it in."
GM plans to install the advanced gasoline-electric drivetrain, teamed with GM's Two Mode front-wheel-drive transmission, in a compact crossover and introduce it when the Saturn Vue plug-in crossover was to debut, early in 2011, Stephens told Automotive News.
He would not say which vehicle would get the plug-in powertrain, but vehicles similar to the Vue that might be candidates include the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain.
The plug-in Vue would have delivered fuel economy of about 35 mpg or slightly higher in city driving.
GM plans to deliver the first plug-in hybrids to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute for fleet testing in 2011, Stephens said. The institute is a nonprofit group that studies electricity.
GM had planned to launch a full hybrid version of the Vue this summer using its acclaimed Two Mode transmission, then add the plug-in in 2011. Now GM is going to launch the Two Mode with the plug-in feature all at once in that year.
No date has been set for when consumers will be offered a plug-in hybrid. Stephens said the price of fuel may play a role in determining that. Toyota Motor Corp. also plans to launch a test fleet of plug-in Priuses before offering them to consumers.
With the death later this year of the Saturn Aura Hybrid, GM will have more available hybrid parts, such as batteries and electronics, to build the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid if sales are strong. The two vehicles use the same powertrain.