LOS ANGELES --
Rick Wagoner, during an appearance at the Los Angeles Auto Show, said General Motors Corp. is dedicated to developing alternative fuel, hybrid, electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
But Wagoner gave no time frame on when the plug-in Saturn Vue Green Line sport utility vehicle would be on the market, saying it depends largely on development of battery technology.
"The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they also are surmountable," Wagoner said.
Troy Clarke, GM's North American president, said the new Saturn small SUV could get about 70 miles per gallon of gasoline. The company said it has the potential to double the fuel efficiency of any current SUV.
The plug-in hybrid will be a front-drive version of GM's two-mode hybrid system, which uses two electric motors and a V-8 gasoline engine to boost fuel efficiency. The two-mode system will debut in the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs in 2007, and eventually will be placed in GM's pickup trucks, Clarke said.
Rebecca Lindland, an auto analyst at Global Insight, an economic research and consulting company, said GM's shift to green is merely a response to the marketplace.
"They're responding to renewed consumer concern about fuel prices and fuel economy," she said.
Environmental activists, one of whom heckled Wagoner on stage after his speech, have complained that GM and other auto companies have been too slow to curb the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
But in his speech, Wagoner said developing greener technologies would be a high priority for GM, which has responded to increasing gas prices with a mix of hybrids, biofuels such as E85 ethanol, and work on hydrogen fuel cell technology.
"I can't give you a date certain for our plug-in hybrid today," he said. "But I can tell you that this is a top priority program for GM, given the huge potential it offers for fuel economy improvement."
GM also said it would introduce a Saturn Aura hybrid model early next year. The Aura is a recently introduced midsize car that so far is selling well.