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GM puts brakes on new rear-wheel drive vehicles

Old 04-13-2007, 01:23 PM
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Default GM puts brakes on new rear-wheel drive vehicles


GM puts brakes on new rear-wheel drive vehicles

Sharon Terlep / The Detroit News
April 12, 2007

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp. is holding off on plans for virtually all new rear-wheel drive cars in response to the threat of far stricter fuel economy standards from the federal government.

Concerned that heightened mileage requirements will penalize the automaker for producing new versions of high-performance rear-wheelers, GM is halting all but a few of the vehicles in its future lineup.

Word of GM's change in plans came this week from GM product czar Bob Lutz in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. A GM spokesman confirmed the information on Wednesday.

While GM wouldn't give specifics, the move could mean consumers will never see a rear-wheel replacement for the full-size Buick Lucerne and Chevrolet Impala sedans or a small rear-drive Cadillac compact.

Still in the works, however, are a Chevy Camaro sports coupe due out next year and the Pontiac G8 sedan, which is being developed with GM subsidiary Holden in Australia.

"It says they are making a commitment to maximizing fuel economy and maximizing fuel efficiency, and that makes sense," said Tom Libby, an analyst with J.D. Power and Associates' Power Information Network.

The Bush administration wants to reduce U.S. gasoline usage 20 percent by 2017, in part by raising fuel economy standards an average of 4 percent annually. That would bring cars to an average 34 mpg by 2017, up from 27.5 mpg today. Also, the Supreme Court ruled last week that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate cars' carbon dioxide emissions.

Lutz has been a scathing critic of the Bush plan, arguing that such a mandate could add $5,000 to the average cost of vehicles. "It would bring the market to a standstill," he told The Detroit News in an interview last week during the New York Auto Show. "We've pushed the pause button. It's no longer full speed ahead."

Rear-drive uses more gas

Front-wheel drive vehicles became popular alternatives to rear-drive cars during the oil crisis in the 1970s. Rear-drive vehicles typically suck more gas because they are heavier and tend to be tuned for high-performance driving.

GM appears to be the first automaker to shift its product pipeline based on the growing possibility of strict fuel economy mandates, though its crosstown rivals say they're watching fuel economy regulations closely.

Ford Motor Co. spokesman Jim Cain said its plans already are heavy on vehicles that feature fuel-saving technologies. Cain said while the automaker has not announced plans for an all-new rear-drive car, Ford remains interested in the vehicles. Ford will continue producing new versions of its Mustang muscle car.

DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, which has spawned several rear-drive vehicles from the Chrysler 300 architecture, on Wednesday said it has no plans to back away from that market. The Auburn Hills automaker has plans to revive the Dodge Challenger muscle car at the end of next year.

"We've had some great success with that architecture," Chrysler Group spokesman Rick Deneau said. Fuel economy regulations aren't "affecting plans for anything we're going forward with."

Instead, he said, Chrysler will focus on improving technology on rear-wheel drives to make them more fuel-efficient. It does, however, plan to ramp up investment in fuel-sipping small vehicles.

"You arrive at a balanced product plan and then you work on the technology to deliver the fuel economy that isn't just what the government requires, but what consumers expect," Chrysler spokeswoman Colleen O'Connor said.

Change of heart seen

GM's decision to put the brakes on rear-wheel drive models is the latest twist in GM's on-again, off-again attraction to the vehicles. Lutz first championed GM's new rear-wheel-drive platform, known as Zet
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Old 04-13-2007, 02:17 PM
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Default RE: GM puts brakes on new rear-wheel drive vehicles

Wow, bad news for GM fans. But good news for Mopar fans. I think the technology is there for the cars we like to become more efficient. rear wheel drive, 5-speed auto or 6 speed manual. V-8 MDS. The horsepower wars may be over before they start. But I'm hoping not.
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Old 04-13-2007, 02:46 PM
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Default RE: GM puts brakes on new rear-wheel drive vehicles

ORIGINAL: lear4406

Wow, bad news for GM fans. But good news for Mopar fans. I think the technology is there for the cars we like to become more efficient. rear wheel drive, 5-speed auto or 6 speed manual. V-8 MDS. The horsepower wars may be over before they start. But I'm hoping not.
Actually, I don't think this is the case. GM also has their own version of MDS called Displacement on Demand or Active Fuel Management. Granted it doesn't appear to be as efficient as Chrysler's system since the Charger R/T and 300C gets better fuel mileage in tests done by the magazines than the Impala SS and Grand Prix GXP, infact I have read so tests where the SRT-8 models get better fuel mileage than both the Impala SS and Grand Prix GXP as crazy as that sounds. GM also has a line of 5 & 6 speed automatics they are planning on using on the G8.

The problem is GM has made a big mistake with their engine line-up. They have decided to get rid of their only V6 engine that is proven to be a reliable & one of their most fuel efficient V6 engines, the 3800. If the management at GM was smart, they would have taken the 60 degree V6 series and threw it out of the window, instead of using it for the basis for the "High Value" engine. The GM 60 degree engine has been a problem since day one and it has never been completely cured of its problems. They should have added the Active Fuel Management to the 3800 instead of making the 3.9L "High Value" engine. The 3.9L only gets mileage in the mid-20 and it can only get 29 mpg with Active Fuel Management; meanwhile, the 3800 ranges from 28-30 and doesn't have any of that technology. Also the "High Feature" engine (3.6L) is also not very efficient. Despite the tall gearing it receives in the Aura and G6, it can only muster 28mpg on the highway. That is pathetic considering how much technology is in that engine and the fact that it has a 6-speed automatic hooked up to it. Their plan to use this engine in the G8 is a stupid idea. OHC V6 engine are for light cars, heavier models should have modified OHV engines.

I hope this means that GM will keep some of their larger mid-sized FWD line-up (Impala, LaCrosse, etc.). This has been a very successful segment for them and leaving it would be a big mistake.

Also, Lutz is right, the fuel economy standards being raised to that level is unrealistic. I agree that cars should get better fuel mileage, but that should be a decision made by the consumers. The consumers make that change by buying the more fuel efficient cars, not the President and especially not the Supreme Court (they have no business getting into that anyways, that is something for congress to make a decision on, not the stupid courts). They also need to remember that their are limitations to the internal combustion engines. A 34mpg standard would be difficult to meet the markets demand. Most people like V6 and V8 engines, both of which cannot get 34mpg (except in the case of diesels), this means they would have to sell a ton of super efficient I4s to meet this standard which people will not want to purchase.
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Old 04-14-2007, 01:30 PM
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Default RE: GM puts brakes on new rear-wheel drive vehicles

The way I see it is more rear drive sales for Chrysler Corp. That ain't a bad thing.
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Old 04-16-2007, 07:09 AM
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Default RE: GM puts brakes on new rear-wheel drive vehicles

I meant bad also because it will lose out on the fleet sales in police dept. and taxi service. Where they like the rear wheel platform. If the american co. can continue to improve the rear wheel drive platform it will only insure that advancments will continue, if GM backs out now, we lose some more technology that would advance the platform for all.
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Old 04-17-2007, 05:00 PM
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Default RE: GM puts brakes on new rear-wheel drive vehicles

I see it as a problem for GM to pull out of this because this is currently a popular segment and I don't want to see them go under, but on the other hand they should offer some larger FWD models for those who prefer FWD. Just as some RWD drivers didn't like FWD, some FWD drivers don't like RWD.
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