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Death of Saturn Vue PHEV Sends Technology Elsewhere on Same Timetable

Newly installed product-development chief Tom Stephens leaves no hint of which brand now will receive the plug-in technology.

Tom Stephens, head of product development at General Motors Corp., says a decision to kill the Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid electric vehicle will not delay the technology’s planned introduction in 2011.

“The plug-in hybrid technology will be applied to one of GM’s four core brands,” he writes at GM FastLane, one of the auto maker’s blogs. “Stay tuned for which one, and in the meantime, I’ll enjoy reading the speculation.”

The decision comes as GM moves forward with selling the Saturn brand and its distribution network. The Vue was scheduled to receive a plug-in version of GM’s 2-Mode Hybrid technology in 2011 for use by the U.S. Department of Energy and non-profit Electric Power Research Institute.

However, that powertrain now will find its way into a product from one of GM’s four core brands – Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick or GMC. Currently, Buick is the only one of the four not offering a midsize cross/utility vehicle sharing the Vue’s basic underpinnings.

Chevrolet comes to market this year with the redesigned Equinox, while Cadillac brings a redesigned SRX loosely based on the Vue platform, and GMC will offer the all-new Terrain.

Stephens, about one month into his new role from running GM Powertrain, also says GM’s alternative-propulsion strategy remains on track. The Vue PHEV represented one of 14 hybrid and electric vehicles GM plans to roll out by 2012.

“Our commitment to hybrid, plug-in hybrid and advanced battery technology is a key element of GM’s reinvention,” he writes. “While it may seem at times we’re taking a step back, we’re really taking two steps forward.”

The auto maker expects to close a deal for Saturn by the end of the year, but has said it could phase out the division altogether within the same timeframe if a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached.

At least three groups have stepped forward in the bidding. Telesto Ventures, an investor group that includes private-equity firm Black Oak Partners LLC, as well as a number of Saturn dealers, was first to publically announce its interest.

But earlier this week, a group of Ohio investors including some former Detroit Three executives expressed an interest. Dealership-magnate and racing-team owner Roger Penske also is considering a move for the 19-year-old brand.

TAGS: Vehicles
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