Rick Wagoner, chief executive of General Motors Corp., has finally come clean with plans to commercialize a plug-in hybrid consumer vehicle. He didn’t give any dates, only a commitment that GM is considering this a top priority. “Production timing will depend on battery development,” he said.” Wagoner did say, however, the first version would be a Saturn VUE plug-in hybrid. “We’re working today with a number of battery companies to develop the technology necessary to build a plug-in hybrid.”
Wagoner made the comments during a speech today at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show. An environmental activist apparently wasn’t satisfied with the commitment, or the lack of a date, and walked up on stage asking Wagoner to sign a pledge to be the industry’s fuel-economy leader by 2010. Wagoner’s response: “You have to leave now.”
Good on GM for making the commitment to come out with a plug-in hybrid, but without a ballpark date it’s tough to say whether this is just PR that won’t go anywhere. We know battery technology is holding up the technology — Toyota and other car makers have said this as well. It’s a safe bet for any company to say they’ll come out with a plug-in hybrid when that technology is ready. Hasn’t that been the claim for fuel cells?
I’m being a skeptic — perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps this move by GM will spark similar announcements from its competitors and then, suddenly, we’ll have real competition toward getting the first plug-in hybrids into the North American market.