GM aims to be first to make 1 million hydrogen cars: exec

SHANGHAI Wed Nov 14, 2007 8:07am EST

General Motors (GM) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner steps out of GM's Chevrolet Sequel, a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle, during the first test drive in Shanghai, November 6, 2006. General Motors Corp aims to be the first automaker to produce 1 million fuel cell-powered vehicles, an executive said on Wednesday, as the world's auto industry leaders race to develop ''green'' vehicles for the mass market. REUTERS/Nir Elias

General Motors (GM) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner steps out of GM's Chevrolet Sequel, a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle, during the first test drive in Shanghai, November 6, 2006. General Motors Corp aims to be the first automaker to produce 1 million fuel cell-powered vehicles, an executive said on Wednesday, as the world's auto industry leaders race to develop ''green'' vehicles for the mass market.

Credit: Reuters/Nir Elias

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - General Motors Corp (GM.N) aims to be the first automaker to produce 1 million fuel cell-powered vehicles, an executive said on Wednesday, as the world's auto industry leaders race to develop "green" vehicles for the mass market.

"You have to make sure that any of these technologies are out there in great volume to make a difference for the environment," Elizabeth Lowery, a GM vice president, told Reuters

Larry Burns, GM's vice president of research and development, said in May that the company aimed to have fuel cell-powered vehicles, which run on hydrogen and emit only water vapor, in showrooms around 2011 or 2012, and to ramp up production to about a million vehicles a year worldwide after 2012.

Lowery, in Shanghai for the China unveiling of environmentally friendly models such as the fuel cell-powered Chevrolet Equinox, said GM had initially set a broad objective of 2010 or later in the decade for making fuel cells competitive with internal combustion engines in reliability, quality, durability and cost, but gave no time target for mass production.

"You have to bring the technology along before you know when you are going to get to a million vehicles," she said.

Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE), Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T) and Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) are among automakers that are developing fuel cell vehicles for the mass market.

"We want to be the first automaker to produce a million fuel cell vehicles, and be profitable doing so," Lowery said.

GM, which is trying to overcome a reputation for focusing on gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, plans to place 100 models of the Equinox with consumers next year.

In China, the world's second-largest auto market and where GM and Volkswagen AG (VOWG.DE) vie for the top spot in passenger car sales, GM is on track to roll out a locally made gasoline-electric hybrid next year, Lowery said, although she declined to give details.

She added that affordability would be a key factor in driving hybrid auto sales.

"In order for the technologies to make a difference, they have to become affordable," she said.

(Reporting by Fang Yan; Editing by Edmund Klamann)