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The Auto Sleuth: GM, VW & Daimler

Hot off the press: December 5, 2007

December 06, 2007

• GM stresses over self-imposed Volt timeline but remains committed to it: General Motors plans to launch its plug-in hybrid gas/electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, by the end of 2010 despite skepticism at GM about that target. As the race to bring a mass-market, rechargeable electric vehicle to the market heats up, GM Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz said employees working on the Volt are becoming nervous. “There is a lot of skepticism within the company about the timeline,” Lutz said at the Reuters Autos Summit in Detroit. “People are biting their nails, but those of us in a leadership position have said it has to be done.” Lutz said the Volt plug-in hybrid — which GM plans to road-test early next year and produce by late 2010 — is crucial to GM’s efforts to snag the environmental technology crown from Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp. The Volt is designed to run for about 40 miles on nothing but electricity. Owners can either plug it in at night to recharge or rely on a small gas motor to do the work while driving the Volt. GM is the only automaker to have provided a timeline on production even though other companies such as Ford Motor Co and Toyota are working on similar technology.

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• VW’s hot-ride Scirocco bypasses North America so as not to hurt Rabbit sales: Spy photographers have spotted a number of Volkswagen Scirocco prototypes, some even in the southwest United States on testing missions. But the Sleuth hears that the Scirocco will not be sold in North America. It’s slated to go on sale in Europe in mid 2008, but Stefan Jacoby, president and chief executive officer of Volkswagen of America, broke the news in an interview with Car and Driver magazine recently. Jacoby apparently said that the automaker didn’t want to cannibalize North American sales of the Rabbit. “The [2009 Scirocco] is lovely, but we can’t have everything,” he said. VW of America executives have long stated their opposition to bringing the Scirocco to America. The final decision will come out of Germany, but the Sleuth hears the news is not going to be good.

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