General Motors plans to produce a new small car that the automaker hopes will reach 40 mpg on conventional gasoline, beginning early next year. Reports began to emerge late yesterday with a story in AutoWeek, which claimed, "The car's engine will be capable of developing between 120 and 140 hp. Sources say mileage could easily exceed 40 mpg." The car will reportedly be powered by a new 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, developed by GM engineers in Europe. The car will not be the next generation of Chevrolet's small Cobalt, and it isn't clear whether it will replace that car or be sold alongside it in dealerships. Sources do say it "will be shared among five nameplates: Chevrolet, Pontiac, Saturn, Opel and Daewoo," the last two sold overseas.
Autoblog reports, "The mystery Chevrolet compact will be unveiled this fall, with a production date of early next year. We haven't heard much regarding an all-new Chevrolet compact, so if this vehicle arrives in addition to a new Cobalt, that will be very big news."
The timing of GM's announcement is highly unusual. Automakers typically prepare the press for new models with a slow, steady rollout of details two to three years before a vehicle will be produced. They then debut a prototype as a concept car at auto shows, absorb critical reaction to the vehicle, and make changes before finally revealing the car to the public and sending it to dealer lots as long as three years after the first reports of the project emerged. GM has announced this car less than a year before they hope to begin selling it, with no gradual unveiling of prototypes.
The project doesn’t even have a name yet, and no one has seen the car in any form. All we have so far is a press release.
We can only interpret that as a sign that the General is scrambling to respond to poor sales and a public clamoring for higher-mpg cars. With $4 gas possibly here to stay, a 40mpg Chevy that makes 140 horsepower would be tremendous news. We'll bring details of the car if they emerge. Let's hope there's more to the announcement than hype.