More stories related to New York Auto Show NEW YORK – Start of regular production of the Hummer H3 will begin at General Motors Corp.’s Shreveport, LA, plant within the next couple of weeks, says Tom Wallace, vehicle line executive-midsize trucks and SUVs.

“Dealers will get them in May and the price will be nice and low,” he says, adding he expects sales of 30,000-40,000 H3s this year. “There’s no doubt the H3 will be the volume player for Hummer.”

In an interview at the auto show here, Wallace also is upbeat about the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon small pickups.

“We’re slugging it out with Toyota (Motor Corp.) for segment leadership,” he notes. “We’d be in real trouble if the S-10 were still on the market.”

GM expects to sell 30,000-plus H3s this year.

However, Wallace admits the segment is declining. “We can’t abandon it though,” he says. “The 600,000-700,000 volume in the segment is still pretty good.”

He says GM is capturing 23%-24% of the sector, having passed the Ford Ranger in the process.

In addition, Wallace says the sales erosion is going to slow. “Personally, I don’t think (the segment is) going to get much smaller than it is.”

GM still has no plans for a V-6 in the small pickups. “Some people are not coming into dealerships,” he concedes. “But people who understand the specs and try it, buy it.”

The segment hasn’t benefited from skyrocketing fuel prices, he notes.

“We haven’t seen people get out of fullsize trucks and move to compacts.” However, the higher fuel prices go, the more likely it is for some people to switch to smaller trucks, he says.

Wallace also predicts a good year for GM’s midsize SUVs.

“We’re going full bore in the Moraine, OH, plant that is now ramping up production of the Saab 9-7X,” he says. Saab dealers will receive the 9-7X in May.

Wallace forecasts total sales of about 450,000 midsize SUVs for GM this year, about on par with its 2004 total.

“When you add all the brand derivatives we outsell Ford (Motor Co.) in midsize SUVs,” he says.

Wallace says GM is well along in the development of the next-generation midsize SUVs. “We want to be competitive with Toyota in lifecycles,” he says.

He declines to give details on the next-generation SUVs, but promises better fuel economy. “I can’t reveal how we’re going to do it now,” he says, adding the new models won’t be creeping up in size.

There are no current plans to offer diesels in the new SUVs. “But we want to be ready, and we watch our competitors,” he says. “We are not ignoring diesels.”

He also says that GM is spending a lot of time on hybrids for this segment.