It should hardly be a surprise that GM doesn't plan to toss out years of hybrid engineering work when it bids adieu to the Saturn brand. We always felt that recent reports to that effect made no sense.
Instead, the General will hang onto the intellectual property it derived through designing and engineering a front-wheel-drive variation of its Two-Mode Hybrid system. That system was destined to appear in a model of the 2010 Saturn Vue this summer, with a plug-in variant arriving later in 2010 or 2011.
According to Automotive News, GM vice chairman of global product development Tom Stephens said the powertrain would now be delivered to U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) and nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) fleets in early 2011, within a different vehicle. Consumers might be offered a version later on, depending on the price of gasoline.
Stephens didn't specify whether it would be branded Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, or GMC, or which model the hybrid might be used in.
Our guess would be either the revised 2010 Chevrolet Equinox (a version of which achieved 32 mpg highway) or the new 2010 GMC Terrain. Each could be outfitted in low-line trim for economical fleet usage.
There's an outside chance it might be fitted to the 2010 Cadillac SRX, since Cadillac has been most successful in selling hybrid models of its Escalade large SUV. Then again, few fleet managers may be able to justify a Cadillac SUV--unless it's for limo service aimed at Hollywood stars who want to go green.
We drove a prototype Saturn Vue Two-Mode Hybrid (not the plug-in) last October, and found it a solid and speedy SUV. We look forward to road-testing its successor.
2010 GMC Terrain