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Daily Debrief: GM goes lean and greenCNET News.com's Kara Tsuboi chats with CarTech Senior Editor Wayne Cunningham about GM's decision to close four North American truck manufacturing plants. The news behind the headline indicates a trend toward smaller vehicles and a push to roll out the...
^B00:00:01 [ Music ] >> I'm Kara Tsuboi, CNET News.com. Welcome to the Daily Debrief. My guest today is senior editor Wayne Cunningham for CNET's car channel. Thanks for joining us. And big news today out of GM, they announced that they're going to be closing four North American plants. Is that right? >> Yeah. Truck plants actually, which makes sense because they're seeing a decline in truck sales. >> And also, the price of gas and the price of crude oil and everything, >> Oh yeah. The price of gas is astronomical, and people just aren't buying the trucks like they used to. And that's what GM really made their profits on in the '90s. And they kind of should have seen this coming, potentially. But it is impressive that they were able to move this quickly. I mean it could be seen as late, but the trend numbers have just changed in the last six months of people buying more cars than trucks. >> So what is GM's plan? I mean they're gonna close down these truck plants, and there's also talk about bringing up the Chevy Volt. Is that right? >> Well, I mean their plan is really reactive at this point. They're just mainly reacting to the consumer trends, and that's what they've kind of done all along, when they were building the big SUVs in the '90s. They had kind of gotten behind on the whole hybrid thing. I mean Toyota overtook them on that. >> Mm-hmm. >> You know, took a risk launching the Prius, and obviously did great with that. And now GM is starting to get into the hybrid business and lot of other things. And the Volt you mentioned is interesting, too. That's gonna be an all-electric car -- well, they call it a series hybrid, actually. It'll be an electric car that has a -- what they call a range extender. It's either a fuel cell or a gas engine or something that recharges the batteries as you go. >> Okay. How many miles per gallon are we looking at? >> Well, it's hard to say equivalence right now. >> Okay. >> And it's really hard to say anything right now because it doesn't exist. >> But I was reading somewhere that they're hoping to get these Volts on the showroom floors, what, by the end of 2010, a year and a half from now? >> Yeah. They really have put an aggressive and optimistic schedule on production for this car. >> Mm-hmm. >> And probably has to do -- when they showed the car off as a concept a couple years ago in Detroit, it just got amazing press reception. It got amazingly good public receptions. And so they really just fast tracked this car. But when they showed it off then as a concept, they pointed out that these batteries for it aren't really ready yet. The battery and technology hasn't been invented yet. And the companies that they're working with to develop this battery technology are -- you know, they're working really fast on trying to get this stuff working, but it's pretty questionable whether it's really there or not yet. Or whether it will be really ready by 2010. >> Yeah. That does seem like a really soon, soon deadline. >> Yeah. >> Fast approaching. >> Well, to invent new technology, yeah. >> Yeah. Absolutely. Now, another interesting part of today's news is that CEO Rick Wagoner announced that they may be doing something with the Hummer brand, possibly selling that off. >> Yeah, well, Hummer obviously has a reputation for being big and bulky and not caring about, you know, gas prices. >> Right. >> Or anything like that. But if they're seeing sales decline -- declining sales in that as well, it just becomes a dinosaur, and something they probably want to unload. Ford recently, I mean, unloaded a couple of the brands -- not so much to do with gas prices, just to do with sort of economic interests. And GM is probably looking at the same thing, but maybe they can find, you know, somebody to pay a premium price for hummer. Sell that brand off and, you know, refill their coffers. >> One thing that, you know, GM spokespeople said, and definitely industry say, is that this trend to smaller cars, though, is not going to go away. This is likely here to stay.. So, at that point, the Hummer's looking more and more like a dinosaur. >> Oh, absolutely. And the smaller cars, too, they have worldwide appeal. And that's what a lot of the car companies are looking at, is can we have a car that we can build here and build around the world and sell around the world. >> Right. Because catering to the American market's probably not gonna get you anywhere fast. >> Oh yeah. I mean with the growing markets in China and India. I mean everybody wants to be in those markets. So they want to build product that will sell in those markets. >> Interesting. Well, thank you, Wayne. We look forward to future reviews of the Chevy Volt, if and when we ever see it on the market. >> Hope so. >> Thanks so much. I'm Kara Tsuboi, CNET News.com. And this has been the Daily Debrief. We'll see you next time. ^M00:03:44 [ Music ]