General Motors Corp. delays the introduction of a next-generation hybrid system to early 2011 from mid-2010 and confirms it will not build ’10 Chevrolet Malibu models with the current system due to flagging sales.

The Malibu hybrid utilizes a belt-alternator-starter hybrid technology, or BAS system, for an 18% fuel-efficiency gain in the city cycle. A more robust version of the system, called BAS+, was expected from the auto maker in 2010 but has been pushed to early 2011, Ward’s learns.

GM spokesman Brian Corbett confirms the delay and says many of the bankrupt auto maker’s product plans have been affected by its wobbly financial state.

As GM pinched pennies late last year awaiting taxpayer loans, numerous programs were put on the back burner, resulting in delays for other product programs, such as the Cadillac CTS coupe and the Saturn Vue 2-mode hybrid. GM ultimately decided to kill plans for the Vue 2-mode and send the technology to another product.

Unlike the current BAS system, which appeared only in the Malibu and Saturn Aura and Vue, the new version is designed to be compatible with any GM vehicle and powertrain around the world – from gasoline to diesel and 4-cyl. engines to V-8 mills.

Such broad use would pave the way for the auto maker to seriously crank up the production volume, particularly as fuel-economy regulations continue to toughen in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. The system is expected to have a bigger impact on improving fuel economy than the current version, because its higher output capability will allow GM to downsize a vehicle’s internal-combustion engine without negatively impacting performance. According to GM’s viability plan from Dec. 2, the auto maker will invest $467 million in BAS+ and expects it to deliver an overall fuel economy improvement of 12%-15%. Chevy and dealers were notified today they will not be able to order a ’10 model-year Malibu hybrid. Although GM will build some models for fleet customers, it will not assemble any retail units because of bloated inventories.

Ward’s first reported GM’s decision to put a hold on dealer orders for the cars, as well as Saturn Aura models with the technology, on June 5.

So far this year, hybrid sales are down 25.8% against a total industry downturn of 31%. Sales of the Malibu hybrid plunged 160% to 282 units through the year’s first five months, compared with 706 deliveries in like-2008.

Much of the deterioration in Malibu hybrid sales came with the introduction of a 6-speed transmission for conventional 4-cyl. models. With a 6-speed gearbox, regular Malibu models achieve fuel economy of 22-33 mpg (10.7-7.1 L/100 km) city/highway, compared with 26-34 mpg (9.1-6.9 L/100 km) on hybrids costing upwards of $4,000 extra.