Lutz Says Fuel Economy Killed Some Gm Concept Cars

By: Anthony Fontanelle

General Motors Corp. Product Chief Bob Lutz said that the company has killed some of its concept-car ideas because of an increased emphasis on fuel economy and sensitivity over the automaker's public image.

Lutz, speaking during a video podcast on GM's Web site released over the weekend, said that the company has "arranged our priorities on now getting more fuel efficient, (and) spending a lot more money on alternative(s)." Those alternatives include hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, and hybrid-electric vehicles with a battery that can be recharged by plugging in.

Lutz said that it is challenging to make certain show cars a reality when operating "in an era where everybody is talking about 36-miles-per gallon by 2017 and four increase a year after that.

"Something had to give at the other end," Lutz said, referring to the company's decision not to build muscular sedans like the Cadillac Sixteen super-luxury car concept and the Buick Velite roadster. Instead, the automaker will focus on more fuel-efficient technologies. "We had to prioritize" and the Velite "got prioritized out." The concept cars will just be wrapped by a .

The Cadillac Sixteen, a prototype of a stylish and high performance car, was first presented by the company in 2003. The concept car was equipped with a 32-valve V16 concept engine displacing 13.6 liters and was integrated to a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. The engine was said to generate 1000 horsepower and 1000 pound feet of torque using no form of forced induction. The Sixteen is also known to have a Bulgari clock on the dashboard and a steering wheel logo carved out of solid crystal.

Meanwhile, the Velite, a roadster concept car designed by Buick and built by Bertone, was first launched at the 2004 New York International Auto Show. The Velite features styling cues that reflect its Buick heritage. The "waterfall" front grill stresses elegant clean lines, triple fender portholes and exquisiteness. Velite's engine is an experimental twin-turbocharged 3.6L V6, rated at 400 horsepower, mated to a six speed automatic transmission. Buick has shown stirring desire in producing it, but have said that it is unlikely to be found in showrooms in the future as they will be concentrating on refreshing their present lineup.

The Cadillac Sixteen would get about 13 miles per gallon even if it was a hybrid, Lutz said. The Sixteen, which Lutz characterized as "our dream" to build as GM's answer to the ultra-luxury vehicle segment in the U.S., is a casualty of GM's fuel-efficiency push because the vehicle could "display of a lack of sensitivity to environmental concerns," Lutz declared.

"I think a Cadillac Sixteen at this point - much as we all love the car - would probably not be an extremely prudent thing to do." Lutz insisted Cadillac probably needs to focus on smaller cars, including something smaller than the entry-level CTS sedan that sits at the bottom of Cadillac's lineup.

Lutz said that GM is not giving up on eventually launching a luxury flagship for Cadillac. GM's product czar also defended the automaker's record for making concept cars into vehicles that are actually available in the dealership, such as the Hummer H2 SUV and the Saturn Sky roadster.

GM's move to become more fuel-efficient in its product line has been eaten up considerable investment in current and longer-term technologies, and has come following years of criticism related to its product line. The Detroit automaker currently boasts that it has a strong variety of vehicles capable of getting better than 30 miles-per-gallon of gasoline. Additionally, it has boosted enhanced fuel economy of its trucks and SUVs, which are often deemed gas guzzlers.

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