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First Look: Buick Envision Plug-in Hybrid Concept

A hint of the future for the Buick brand?

by on Apr.19, 2011

The splashy debut of Buick's new Envision plug-in hybrid concept helped kick off the 2011 Shanghai Motor Show.

With an elaborately staged show worthy of a Las Vegas revue, General Motors unveiled a new Buick concept vehicle as Shanghai Auto 2011, China’s largest auto show, was getting underway.

The Buick Envision SUV is a plug-in hybrid concept vehicle merging Buick’s global design language with Chinese aesthetics – and a variety of high-tech features.

“The Envision has inherited Buick design DNA and taken the Buick global design language to a new height. It makes a significant statement for Buick styling and technology, and will influence upcoming models from the brand,” said Ed Welburn, GM vice president of global design, who was on hand for the official debut.

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The resurgent Buick brand now sells more cars in China than the U.S., and that has led GM to rely more and more on the Asian nation’s designers and engineers when developing new products for the marque.  Envision inherits the essence of Buick’s “fluid dynamics and peaceful comfort,” said Holt Ware, director of design at Shanghai GM’s PATAC technical center.

“It introduces the development direction for Buick’s future SUV products for the China market,” added Shi Hong, Director of Buick Marketing at Shanghai GM

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GM Makes New Investment in Battery Car Production

Delphi invests in new wireless recharging system.

by on Sep.30, 2010

While GM expands production of EV component, Delphi is looking at a new wireless charging system.

With federal help, General Motors Corp. is sinking an additional $23.5 million into production of components for electric vehicles at a factory near Baltimore, Maryland, where it will produce motors for future battery cars.

The new investment follows GM’s earlier commitment of $246 million to the Baltimore plant back in January. The investments create new jobs at the plant, according to GM officials, which has been under pressure to create more jobs at the company’s U.S. operations in return for the federal bailout that kept it alive.

Meanwhile, GM’s former parts arm, Delphi Corp. is pushing into the nascent EV market with a new partnership aimed at developing wireless charging technology.

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“This will allow us to strengthen our core electrification components expertise,” said GM Manufacturing Manager Arvin Jones, about the maker’s latest Baltimore investment. “We’ll have more to say about specific products later.”

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Mercedes-Benz ML450 Hybrid Finally Debuts in U.S.

Up to 46% better fuel economy claimed for “lease only” SUV.

by on Nov.13, 2009

Mercedes-Benz ML450 HYBRID 4MATIC

Mercedes plans to sell the ML and subsequent Hybrid-powered SUVs only in the U.S.

Next Monday, Mercedes-Benz will officially launch the ML450 Hybrid, the first European marque full Hybrid vehicle to be offered in the U.S.

It is based on the technology developed by General Motors for its dual-mode Hybrid models, which the company subsequently licensed to BMW, Chrysler and Mercedes, all of whom were and are desperately behind in the Hybrid technology race long dominated by Toyota and Lexus.

The Alabama-built ML450 Hybrid joins the S400 Hybrid, which cannot run on electricity alone, and existing “BlueTec” diesel models in its growing portfolio of, relatively, fuel-efficient vehicles.

Mercedes plans to sell the ML and subsequent Hybrid-powered SUVs only in the U.S., global marketing chief Klaus Meier told TDB. The technology is meant to supplement, rather than replace Mercedes’ diesel offerings, which currently account for about 20% of its SUV sales, in the U.S.

ML450 Hybrid will be offered as part of a special lease only option (no purchase allowed!) for a lease price of $659 per month for 36 months and $549 per month for 60 months. A down payment of $5,200 or $5,000, respectively, is required.

A  Mercedes spokesperson told us that it is too early to say what will happen to the vehicles at the end of the lease period, and whether they or later production models will ultimately be available for sale.

Readers may recall the  huge controversy around Saturn’s lease only EV1 electric cars at GM, which to the outrage of happy owners were taken back and shredded at the end of their leases, in spite of pleas from the owners to buy them.

Whether this is lawyer-generated problem at Mercedes, as it was at GM, or Daimler’s doubts about the life and performance of the ML’s nickel metal hydride batteries, or an attempt to limit the volume of what most assuredly is a large loss-making vehicle, among other possibilities that I haven’t thought of, I’ll leave as open questions.

No Purchase needed!

No Purchase Needed!

Mercedes is marketing the ML Hybrid as having V8-like power with four-cylinder fuel economy. Although, Mercedes provided data show that at 7.8 seconds zero-to-60 mph acceleration time, the Hybrid is a full 2.2 seconds slower than the V8. And at 5,000 pounds rated towing capacity, it has 2,200 pounds less capability. I have not driven the SUV but look forward to doing so.

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GM Tells Suppliers Keep Going on Cancelled Hybrid

Latest development confirms the survival of the plug-in GM needs for CAFE credits.

by on Sep.10, 2009

General Motors President and CEO Fritz Henderson announces the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle is expected to achieve a city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon.

General Motors President and CEO Fritz Henderson announces the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle is expected to achieve a city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon.

When General Motors eliminated half its brands, essentially overnight, it created turmoil in its product development program. For one thing, the sale of the Saturn division meant there’d be no home for the plug-in hybrid system that was supposed to be used on the brand’s 2011 Vue.

GM officials briefly considered giving a rebadged version of the Vue plug-in to Buick, one of the company’s four surviving North American brands, but pulled the plug on that idea, as well. However, sources confirmed for TheDetroitBureau.com last week that the technology won’t be abandoned, and while a final decision on where to use it has not been made, it would almost certainly show up in a Chevrolet or GMC model, most likely by the originally planned, 2011 model-year.

 The latest confirmation of this comes from suppliers to the program. GM is telling them to move ahead with plans for a plug-in hybrid despite the automaker’s decision to kill a Buick version of the plug-in hybrid that had garnered negative comments from potential consumers. 

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Keep Plugged In!

GM is now looking for new slot in its current lineup for the plug-in hybrid, according to Prabhakar Patil, the chief executive officer of Compact Power Inc. in Troy, Michigan.

Compact Power also is collaborating with GM on the Volt, and is in discussions with Eaton Corporation about producing lithium-ion batteries for trucks and commercial vehicles.

Compact Power is the North American subsidiary of LG Chem, one of the world’s largest producers of lithium-ion batteries for automotive hybrid electric vehicles and commercial and military markets.

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Abandoned GM Plug-In Hybrid Will Find New Home

Saturn gone, Buick nixed, plug-in will go to Chevy or GMC.

by on Sep.04, 2009

With Saturn to be sold, GM needs a new home for its Vue Plug-In Hybrid. Plans to give it to Buick were scrapped and it may now go to Chevy -- or GMC or Cadillac.

GM needs a new home for what was to have been the Saturn Vue Plug-In Hybrid. Plans to give it to Buick were scrapped and it may now go to Chevy -- or GMC or Cadillac.

When General Motors eliminated half its brands, essentially overnight, it created some significant turmoil in its product development program.  For one thing, the sale of the Saturn division meant there’d be no home for the plug-in hybrid system that was supposed to be used on the brand’s 2011 Vue.

GM officials briefly considered giving a thinly revised version of the Vue plug-in to Buick, one of the company’s four surviving North American brands, but pulled the plug on that idea, as well.  But, sources confirm for TheDetroitBureau.com, the technology won’t be abandoned, and while a final decision on where to use it has not been made, it will almost certainly show up in a Chevrolet or GMC model, most likely by the originally-planned, 2011 model-year.

Stay Plugged In!

Stay Plugged In!

Like many of its competitors, GM is pushing heavy into “electrification,” the use of battery-powered hardware to either supplement or replace the time-tested internal combustion engine.  The well-publicized Chevy Volt is the prime example of this concept.  Though often casually described as a plug-in, Volt is actually an extended-range electric vehicle, or EREV.  The difference is subtle but significant, in that Volt’s wheel are always driven by electric motors.  Its lithium-ion battery pack has a suggested range of 40 miles, and after that, the EREV’s inline-four gasoline engine fires up – but only as a generator, giving it essentially unlimited range.

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