It’s been said that General Motors has presented a somewhat mixed message of being first to market with its “moonshot” extended-range electric Volt technology, but then not announcing plans for more Voltec models at mainstream price points. Where the company does report loud and clear is successes in proliferating less high-tech yet fuel-efficient internal combustion cars and mild hybrids that don’t really dethrone efforts from Toyota and Ford, among others.
To its credit, the company is improving its overall fleet mpg score, reporting now that it is the first U.S. automaker to sell over 1 million vehicles in 2012 in its home market that offer an EPA-estimated rating in excess of 30 mpg on the highway.
“Our investments in advanced powertrains are clearly paying off, and our smaller vehicles are resonating with customers,” said Mark Reuss, president of GM North America. “
Reuss added GM will introduce new diesel, eAssist and plug-in vehicles in the U.S. and expand the availability of turbocharged four-cylinder engines.
“This will give us the most technologically diverse range of fuel-efficient cars and crossovers in the industry.”
The pending diesel is a German-engineered Cruze which promises to be interesting as it tries to take market share away from the likes of Volkswagen. The plug-in vehicles known to be coming are two limited-market varieties – the Spark EV city car and upscale Cadillac ELR. And of course a “30 mpg” highway figure, while making for a good sound bite, is on the high side of what many vehicles may do in the real world considering ordinary hard driving and city driving typically see fewer miles per gallon returned.
What’s more, GM has the technology and engineering know how to proliferate much more efficient vehicles now, but the lower hanging fruit for its fiscally conservative marketers appears to be more conventional, relatively fuel-sipping vehicles “resonating with” its customers.
For advanced-tech proponents whose end goals are to see energy independence and a complete weaning away from petroleum, this represents a slow but perhaps steady route while GM continues with the “all of the above” approach.
The eAssist vehicles are mild hybrids and cars such as the Malibu Eco have not played well against the likes of the full-hybrid Toyota Camry and the market reflects this as the Toyota is outselling the Chevy by about three to one.
But GM is definitely selling efficient vehicles in significant numbers, so maybe that is all positive in creating momentum in a preferred direction.
For its part, GM says this is the case. By 2017, it says will have up to 500,000 vehicles on the road with some form of electrification, with a focus on plug-in technology.
So, hang on, says GM. There’s much more to come even if it does play its hand close to its chest.