General Motors Company's [NYSE:GM] latest press conference effectively revealed the company's entire strategy for combating the current fuel crisis. Rick Wagoner and Bob Lutz, both key representatives in product development at GM, have revealed that the automaker will be becoming more and more 'European' in its lineup as U.S. fuel prices come to resemble that of the rest of the world.
A more global approach means GM will be downsizing cars and engines in a bid to improve fuel economy. Vehicles such as the Cadillac SRX and the Chevrolet Equinox are expected to spearhead this approach with smaller bodies and efficient four-cylinder engines. The Chevrolet Equinox will also be sold under the GMC brand as the Terrain, although Lutz was adamant that both cars will look so different that it will be hard to deduce they are riding on the same platform.
The Chevrolet Beat would have been a logical offering for the U.S. market thanks to its high fuel economy, but as it was designed for the European market it does not meet several key undisclosed U.S. federal standards and thus cannot be sold in the U.S. until the next generation arrives.
While Europe gets the new Chevrolet Cruze, its predecessor, the Cobalt, will remain on sale in the U.S., with Lutz stating that the Cobalt had only just began to take off and updating it now would be too expensive. The Cruze, when it does arrive, will feature a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and is expected to achieve fuel economy figures in excess of 40 mpg.
The stunning Buick Invicta concept, which would add some European style to the GM lineup, will launch in spring 2009 with a near-simultaneous launch in the U.S. and China, although the Invicta moniker likely won't be used.
GMC will also be getting some new crossover models, expected to be smaller than the Acadia and have fuel economy as a priority.
In regard to GM's sub-brands, Lutz has confirmed that Pontiac will be "nourished with products" but that the General is still keen to get rid of the HUMMER brand. Lutz also acknowledged that Saturn was not as profitable or popular as it could be, and due to lack of popularity in the brand the Aura won't be short-cycled in exchange for the new Opel Insignia. The brand will remain in GM's fold, however, as Lutz was eager to point out that GM still likes the brand.
It is expected that GM's main strategy will take on a three-pronged approach, with Buick placed at the premium end of the market, Pontiac at the lower end and GMC specializing in crossovers and trucks.