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GM promises to stay in front of power and fuel economy

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Alex Law
In terms of offering consumers the most fuel-efficient models and the most high-performance models, it turns out that no company comes close to General Motors.

It further turns out that this is not an accident, nor a temporary situation, nor a mantel (or a pair of mantels) that GM has any intention of giving up. So says Tom Stephens, who should know and be listened to on this point.
General Motors' Vice-President Tom Stephens (Photo: General Motors)
Stephen is after all GM Powertrain's group vice-president (a capital "S" serious job inside the world's largest car company), and he is the man most responsible for developing GM's lead in these two critical areas, and the firebrand in charge of expanding the company's lead in both aspects.

You would appreciate the firebrand designation much more vividly if you'd been sitting in the audience of reporters with me nearly 20 years ago in Greenbrier, West Virginia, when the red-headed and laser-eyed manager of the Livonia engine factory got up to give a speech that I can still paraphrase by heart. "I believe in V-8 power, brothers and sisters, and so should you."

Hallelujah, Brother Tom, we cried in response, since Stephens had shown us the light.

So here he is now, long removed from Livonia and sitting at the controls of the world's biggest and most far-reaching powertrain development program, and anxious as ever to rev the engine on GM's position in the market.

Stephens wants you to know that GM is already the leading car company in the U.S. when it comes to making fuel efficient vehicles, and he backs this up with a chart that shows that GM currently sells 20 models that get more than 30 mpg highway fuel economy, versus VW with 14, DaimlerChrysler with 13, Toyota with 12, Ford with 10, BMW and Hyundai with seven, Honda with six, Subaru and Suzuki with five, and Nissan with two.

The chart would have slightly different numbers in Canada, by the way, but GM will still be far in the lead.

It's interesting to note that GM has as many high-mileage cars as Toyota, Honda and Nissan combined, which puts paid to another automotive myth.

At the same time, notes Brother Tom, GM also produces lots of vehicles (that means trucks and SUVs as well as cars) with tremendous acceleration standards. When it comes to going from 0 to 96.5 kmh (or 60 mph), GM sells seven vehicles that can do it in under eight seconds, six vehicles in under seven seconds, four vehicles in under six seconds, five vehicles in under five seconds, and one that needs less than four seconds.

Brother Tom knows how important it is for GM to appeal to members of The Church of Holy Crap This Thing Is Quick, but he's also concerned about the people who worship at the alter of Our Lady of Perpetual Mileage.

So Stephens wants us all to know that GM is working on a bunch of "advanced powertrain technologies it is developing to both reduce emissions and improve the efficiency and performance of its internal combustion engines, automatic transmissions, and hybrid systems."

In the near term (i.e. 2006), the company will have new variants in the Gen IV small-block V-8 engine family, six-speed automatic transmissions, and the hybrid system for the 2007 Saturn VUE Green Line.
Alex Law
Alex Law
Automotive expert