INCHEON, South Korea -- General Motors Co., aiming to give its small cars a sales edge, may introduce continuously variable transmissions to deliver better fuel economy, executives say.
GM doesn't use CVTs now. But they could be used on models such as the Chevrolet Spark, Aveo and Cruze in the next three years, said Mike Arcamone, CEO of GM Daewoo Auto and Technology.
The company is also exploring the use of turbochargers on smaller engines.
Getting superior mileage is key to winning over U.S. drivers to the latest wave of small cars that began with the launch of the Cruze this year and continues with the arrival of the four-seat Spark in the first half of 2012.
GM will have to improve the mileage on these models by at least 10 percent by the next full-model change, said Sohn Dongyoun, vice president of engineering at GM's global small- and minicar development team at GM Daewoo. CVTs offer an easy , quick fix, he said.
General Motors offered CVTs in three vehicles, the Saturn Ion coupe and Vue SUV and the Opel Astra small car, for three years but dropped the transmission at the end of the 2005 model year.
Arcamone said U.S. customers are finally ready for small cars such as the Spark -- as long as they wield eye-catching style and updated content, especially infotainment options.
"The car's got to not look like a small box," Arcamone said. "It's got to be fun, sporty, aggressive and have roominess." Despite the Spark's small size, "You don't feel claustrophobic."
The Spark, to be GM's smallest U.S. offering, will test whether the recovering automaker has found the right formula. The car will be manufactured in North America, but Arcamone declined to identify the plant. Production in Mexico is one option.
(Source: Automotive News)