Asking customers for another chance, General Motors Co. product development chief Tom Stephens announced plans yesterday for a Buick plug-in hybrid and said strong sales of the Chevrolet Camaro had prompted overtime at GM's assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario.
Speaking at the Management Briefing Seminars, Stephens said GM's key challenge is to roll out vehicles that will attract "shoppers for the right reason: the wheels, not the deals."
He said the Camaro is one of the vehicles leading the charge. Strong sales of the muscle car and nearly 1 million customer requests for information led GM to add overtime in Oshawa, he said.
In 18 months, GM will launch a convertible version, Stephens said. He joked that he intended to have one in his garage if his wife would allow another vehicle to be added to his stable of 18 cars.
In 2011, Buick will introduce a plug-in hybrid crossover based on technology GM had planned for the Saturn Vue, Stephens said. GM is divesting Saturn and other brands to concentrate on four core brands, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.
The compact crossover will get a direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6 engine with a modified version of GM's new two-mode front-drive hybrid system. Buick will launch a gasoline-engine version of the crossover a year earlier with a 2.4-liter direct-injection Ecotec engine, Stephens said.
GM has selected LG Chem to supply the lithium ion battery cells for the new plug-in. LG Chem is the supplier of battery cells for the Chevrolet Volt plug-in. Compact Power has been selected to supply the battery packs for the new Buick plug-in.
Stephens would not say where the new plug-in will be built.
Paraphrasing GM CEO Fritz Henderson, Stephens said GM knows it will not get another chance to restructure if it can't return to profitability.
Stephens said GM is committing development resources with a sense of urgency to its four remaining brands.
In addition to the Camaro, Stephens said, GM is promoting the launches of a restyled and re-engineered Chevrolet Equinox crossover, the redesigned Cadillac SRX crossover and new CTS Sport Wagon crossover, and the redesigned Buick LaCrosse sedan.
On the horizon are the new GMC Terrain SUV this autumn and the new compact Chevrolet Cruze next April.
Stephens said GM will rely on a leaner lineup of vehicles focused on being the best in their class. He described the strategy this way:
"We're going to take fewer swings but get more hits." c