By Bill Visnic
PONTIAC, Michigan - The world's largest car company is ready to respond to the public's newfound craving for increased fuel economy with a range of smaller engines. But customers are going to have to indicate they're really serious about downsizing their powerplant expectations.
Thomas G. Stephens, General Motors Corp.'s executive vice president, global powertrain and global quality, said at the recent inauguration of the company's new Powertrain Engineering Development Center here that he's delighted with the engine options at his disposal for answering growing demand for better fuel economy. But that's going to mean U.S. customers will have to signal their readiness to accept smaller engines - in effect reversing a long trend for ever-larger engines and more horsepower.
For one example, Stephens says of the potential for a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine for a vehicle such as the Cadillac CTS midsize sedan: "From a technical point of view, we could do it today."
But, Stephens cautioned, marketing in many segments traditionally has focused on engine cylinder count and power ratings - totems Stephens isn't certain all customers, particularly those shopping in the premium- or sporty-vehicle segments, are entirely ready to give up.
Stephens said GM Powertrain already has a selection of smaller but feisty engines capable of delivering better fuel economy. The turbocharged 4-cylinder Ecotec, for example, replacing a larger-displacement V6. Or a direct-injected V6 standing in for the time-honored V8.
"We're ready. When (customers) want it (the option of smaller engines) - we'll do it."
GM already has said it will cut back on V8 production, and recently decided to suspend the development program for an all-new V8 that effectively would have replaced the aging Northstar architecture...
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This is much better than the Jalopnik interpretation of things, which is:
http://jalopnik.com/399531/cadilliac-will-downsize-engines-when-customers-prove-thats-what-they-wantCadillac is ready to downsize the engines in their luxury offerings — and they have the ability to do it today if that's what customers indicate they want, according to GM Exec VP Thomas G. Stephens. Auto Observer reports he specifically mentioned the possibility of dropping a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, like the turbo Ecotec, into the Cadillac CTS, along with the possibility of trading cylinder count and displacement for turbocharging and direct injection, which is Ford's EcoBoost strategy. Said Stephens, "We're ready. When (customers) want it - we'll do it." While the idea of a four-banger CTS Wagon is pretty alluring, we see a problem with their strategy...
My own take:
GM needs to get through its head that it isn't all-or-nothing with fuel economy. They've already killed Northstar without making much headway in entry-level fuel economy on vehicles like Aveo, automatic Cobalt/G5, and midsize V6s on Epsilon. Focus on improving fuel economy for the mainstream and leave the option for more luxury, power, and refinement for those that can afford the status symbol. Don't cheapen the brand cache of Cadillac by marketing it as a economy car. Besides, where would that leave Saab with its exclusive 4 cylinder turbo luxury? Don't allow Cadillac to eat another exclusive brand segment (as it has already done with Oldsmobile, GMC, and Pontiac, and failed to do with Corvette).
On a positive note, perhaps this does mean GM is listening to us. We do demand better fuel efficiency from Aveo, Cobalt, Astra, compact SUVs such as Vue, and from the V6 offerings. We also want to see a weight reduction across the board.