Fuel efficiency and hybrid technology haven't historically been major concerns of the oil-rich states in the Middle East, but Dubai and its Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) have taken delivery of General Motors test vehicles for what could become the world's largest fleet of hybrids. The cars are being used for government transport and as public taxis in a 12-month trial to determine their viability.

No other Middle East states have performed such a trial to date, and General Motors is anxious to develop the trial into a more long-term fleet agreement. The cars delivered include the Chevrolet Tahoe and Malibu hybrids. They will be evaluated over the next year for their suitability to the intended government and public use, the environment, and for their fuel savings and improved emissions. The Tahoe Hybrid turns in 50% better fuel economy than its standard-drivetrain equivalent in city driving, reaching 21mpg.

GM has long had a strong market in the Middle East, but that strength was based largely on its large-displacement and high-horsepower V8 engines, macho designs and big sizes. GM's Australian subsidiary, Holden, counts the Middle East as one of its largest export markets, thanks in large part to the success of the Commodore full-size sedan.

With hybrid vehicles that don't require as much compromise in terms of power or size as some rival offerings, GM's vehicles may be more attractive to Middle East buyers. If the company can establish a hybrid foothold in the region, it could become a very profitable turn of events for the troubled maker.