Special Coverage

Chicago Auto Show

CHICAGO – There’s no danger of the new Chevrolet Traverse cross/utility vehicle, bowing here at the auto show and on the way to dealers this fall, threatening the life of the slow-selling Saturn Outlook near-term, a top executive says.

GM North America President Troy Clarke admits the Outlook has struggled to connect with buyers but says it represents an inexpensive addition to the General Motors Corp. lineup.

“The Saturn customer doesn’t identify well with the Outlook, because they’ve never had a product that big before,” Clarke says on the auto show’s sidelines. “Sales are creeping up, so I don’t think we’ll drop it at this time.

“It’s not costly or expensive to offer,” he says, adding the Outlook helps to amortize the cost of the Lambda platform it shares with the Traverse, Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia.

“There’s a spot for all four of them,” he says. “It’s just that Outlook will have a smaller spot.

“I’m aware we’ll have four vehicles off one platform, but there will be lots of differentiation inside and out as well as different price points,” he adds. “I wouldn’t drive four vehicles off the same small-car platform. I think it would be wrong to have a Chevy just because we have a GMC.”

Clarke also announces GM’s first E85-capable 4-cyl. vehicle will be the ’10 Chevrolet HHR. He says the Ecotec 4-cyl. will serve as the HHR’s flex-fuel engine and that ultimately all vehicles available with that powerplant will be capable of burning E85. It will be rolled out in other GM models when they are refreshed or replaced, he says.

“Eventually all Ecotec fours will use E85, I just can’t say by when,” Clarke says. “The beauty is that it will add hundreds (of dollars) to the cost, not thousands.”

Discussing the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, he says, “The first-generation battery costs the most. It’s when you get to the third-generation technology that you get costs down to normal and get to economy of scale.”