General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz has said that he is looking forward to having a "car czar" in place so US auto makers have someone sympathetic to its needs in Washington.
Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the North American International Auto Show, Lutz said the car czar would be someone who would talk about the pain the auto industry was being subject to "for no unearthly reason" and hoped that the appointment would lead to a "competitive energy and transportation policy."
President-elect Barack Obama's administration is likely to appoint the "car czar". The conditions of the $17.4 billion bailout given to GM and Chrysler in bridge loans last month stipulate that the Treasury Department appoints someone to oversee the work of the auto makers, in order to ensure that they remain viable and competitive.
Lutz was reported as saying that GM's plans for future vehicles remain fluid in the face of spikes and falls in the price of gasoline, and that the company would need to figure out whether to focus on small cars, hybrids or trucks.
GM is going to announce a battery supplier for its all-electric Chevrolet Volt this week, who will supply lithium-ion batteries for the Volt, Lutz told reporters. Two suppliers are reported to be in the running, one being a unit of Korea's LG Chem, and the other a tie-up between German auto parts supplier Continental AG.
The Volt uses lithium-ion batteries and is a highly anticipated rechargeable car in the US that has production plans slated for November 2010. Reports said it is being designed to run 40 miles on battery power alone, has is slated to become the icon for GM's attempts to reinvent its product line by focusing on the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Additionally, the "all-new" Chevrolet Spark mini-car and Orlando seven-seat compact multi-purpose vehicle would also launch in the US market in 2011, GM said in its press conference at the North American International Auto Show.
"Chevrolet Spark will bring great style, roominess and versatility to the segment of extremely fuel-efficient small cars in the US," said Troy Clarke, president of GM North America.
"The decision to add the Spark to Chevrolet's portfolio reflects the brand's commitment to being a fuel efficiency leader in the industry."
The Chevrolet Spark was first seen as the Chevrolet Beat concept at the 2007 New York Auto Show, and is reported to be ready to make its world debut in full production form at the Geneva Auto Show in March 2009. Sales would start in Europe in the first quarter of 2010, followed by other markets around the globe.
"The Chevrolet Orlando show car, unveiled at the recent Paris Auto Show to positive public reaction, combines the versatility of a sport-utility, a family van and a wagon in a single vehicle," Clarke said. "It has the added benefit of excellent fuel economy, because of its car-based architecture."
"These small vehicles make a big statement," said Ed Peper, North America vice president, Chevrolet.
"With their fresh, clean approach, we believe Spark and Orlando will appeal to a wide range of customers who want excellent fuel efficiency, functionality and style in a small vehicle."