CARLSBAD, CA – When Suzuki Motor Corp. debuts a hybrid-electric vehicle for the U.S. market, it will be an all-new vehicle, says Koichi Suzuki, American Suzuki Motor Corp. president-automotive operations.

“We have not decided on the model yet,” says Osama Honda, SMC chief engineer for the Suzuki SX4 compact cross/utility vehicle.

Honda says the auto maker still is studying how the hybrid system it has under development would be most effective.

A realistic timeframe for a Suzuki hybrid for the U.S. is 2011-2012, Honda says, given the time needed for development of the system.

Both men hint that a midsize or premium sedan is a strong candidate to debut the technology.

Koichi Suzuki rules out the Suzuki Grand Vitara compact CUV.

Koji Yamada, chief engineer for the Suzuki XL7, says the current generation of the midsize CUV will not receive a hybrid system, but he does not rule out the next generation.

And Honda says initial hybrids definitely will be Suzuki-engineered and built models, ruling out the Verona and Reno, which are of Daewoo origin and built by GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co.

But a midsize car makes sense given pending changes to U.S. corporate average fuel economy calculations that will assess light trucks based on their footprint. The smaller the footprint, the greater the CAFE requirement. The result is smaller vehicles are in greater need of a hybrid powertrain, Honda says.

Suzuki also is working to develop its own diesel technology for India, China and other developing markets, Koichi Suzuki says.

In-house development centers on small displacement engines, in the 1.2L range, which should be on the road in India in 2008, he tells Ward’s.

Suzuki and Fiat Auto SpA in March signed a letter of intent to share diesel-engine technology, starting with how Suzuki might build Fiat’s 2.0L JTD Multijet diesel in Asia under license from Fiat, with production of 100,000 units annually to begin in 2010 for Suzuki vehicles in various global markets.

As for diesels for the U.S. market, officials say it is possible but expensive and not a priority.

Yamada notes Suzuki offers the Grand Vitara with a diesel in Europe. “We can do it and are ready. It depends on the market situation. If the customer desires it, we can do it.

“It is too early for us to introduce diesels (in the U.S.),” Yamada says. “We will wait and see (the amount of) demand.”

In the meantime, the auto maker is looking at offering a 4-cyl. gasoline engine in the Grand Vitara for North America in a few years. Suzuki has an all-new 4-cyl. slated to bow in 2008.

Another alternative bandwagon Suzuki is not jumping on yet is offering vehicles with E85 capability, meaning they can operate on a blend of 85% ethanol and gasoline.

Suzuki is studying E85 in general for South America, North America and Asia, Koichi Suzuki says, but it is too early to say if the auto maker will pursue it.

There are no plans to make the XL7, Suzuki’s largest vehicle to date, E85 compatible, Yamada says.

apriddle@wardsauto.com