DETROIT -- The rollout of Chevrolet’s Impala that runs on natural gas has been delayed by nearly a year as General Motors works to fix a quality problem.
GM announced plans in October 2013 for the 2015 “bi-fuel” Impala and billed it as the industry’s only production full-size sedan that can run on both gasoline and compressed natural gas, or CNG. Then-GM CEO Dan Akerson unveiled the plans at a national energy summit, pegging an on-sale date of summer 2014.
So far, no customer has received one. GM told 3,200 Chevy dealers in a May 29 memo that the bi-fuel Impala “has been delayed by a second quality hold” as the company evaluates the car’s CNG system, which includes a 7.8-gallon, all-steel tank stored in the trunk.
The memo gave a tentative shipping date of “mid-July” and said some dealer orders placed in April and May “will not be produced.”
One would-be owner of a bi-fuel Impala told Automotive News in an email that he put down money for the car through his dealership more than a year ago and has not been given a reason for the delay.
GM spokesman Chad Lyons told Automotive News in an email Monday that the company has delayed delivery of the cars “to ensure the technology performs with the highest quality standards.” He declined to elaborate on the nature of the problem.
“We have identified a solution to the delay and are working hard to implement it within the next few months,” he said.
GM has built about 200 bi-fuel Impalas but is holding them “pending the fix, which will be implemented on those that are already built and going forward with production,” Lyons said.
He said production and dealer ordering for the 2016 model is on track for the third quarter.
The car has one engine -- a 3.6-liter V-6 -- and two fuel tanks, one for gasoline and one for CNG, allowing the driver to switch between fuels depending on availability. A full CNG tank should provide enough fuel for about 150 miles of driving before the car seamlessly switches to gasoline power, for an overall range of 500 city miles, GM has said.
The cars are built at GM’s Oshawa, Ontario, plant, where most Impalas are built, and then shipped to Michigan to be equipped with the CNG system by a third-party upfitter, Lyons said.
Last year, GM assigned a sticker price of $38,210, including shipping, and said the bi-fuel Impala would be available at any Chevy dealership sometime in late 2014.
More automakers have introduced CNG models in recent years amid low natural gas prices that have been driven down by an abundance of supply, thanks to new drilling techniques that have led to a production boom.
Most CNG-equipped models are pickups or vans, though some automakers offer CNG cars to fleet and retail buyers. Honda has sold a CNG version of the Civic since the late 1990s.
GM has signaled that it could expand CNG availability to more car models. Its new family of small-displacement engines -- which ranges from 1.0-liter three-cylinders to 1.5-liter four-cylinders -- includes at least two that will be dual-fuel, giving drivers the option of using gasoline, CNG or liquefied petroleum gas.
Spy photos recently taken near GM’s proving ground in Milford, Mich., appear to show a CNG version of the current-generation Buick Regal. Its platform sibling, the Opel Insignia, is offered in bi-fuel mode in Europe.
Gabe Nelson contributed to this report.