Bob Lutz Talks Future GM Vehicles, Powertrains

Following GM's morning expectations-management conference, product czar "Maximum" Bob Lutz answered questions about how the future of GM vehicles would be impacted by the announcements. In particular, we were wondering how the General planned to respond to Ford's Eco-Boost turbo four (and in what form that response might arrive), and when we would see the return of a GM diesel sedan. Lutz's responses — and non-responses — after the jump.

As far as propulsion, Lutz likes electricity and isn't so keen on diesel. "The future of the vehicle is electrification." In the meantime, however, GM will focus on small, flex-fuel, direct-injection four-cylinder gasoline engines, while offering diesels. Lutz noted that diesels are subjected to far more extreme emissions requirements in the US, adding 2-3k in cost while deteriorating the economy advantages, all of which may be true, but we'd still like to have the option of deciding for ourselves.

Lutz reiterated GM's support for the extended-range EV concept as seen in the Volt, while alluding to the possibility of vehicles with an on-board engine that existed solely to charge batteries, a-la diesel/electric locomotives.

In product news:

—A 1.4L turbo gasoline engine will power the Chevy Cruze at its 2010 launch, with a target highway economy of more that 40 MPG.

—Regarding Saturn, "We like the brand, we think it's a good brand," said Lutz, noting that Saturn tends to attract a different kind of buyer — just not enough of them. Aura sales are gaining momentum, and Lutz claims the decision not to replace it with an Insignia vehicle was simply a decision not to short-cycle the current design.

—The Buick Invicta will see a Spring 2009 launch, basically simultaneous in the US and China; the name will likely not be Invicta, however.

—The Chevy Beat cannot be made compatible with US crash regulations without significant investment in time and money, and as such will not appear on these shores.

—GMC will benefit from GMC versions of smaller crossovers; don't expect a GMC passenger car, but do look for GMC entries that are crossover in nature but smaller than Acadia, and equipped with 4-cylinder engines. Lutz stated that GMC has new products in the pipeline but did not elaborate further.