DETROIT General Motors Corp (GM.N) remains "very much" on track to launch its heavily touted Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid in late 2010, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said on Sunday.
Lutz said GM was increasingly confident in the lithium-ion battery technology powering the Volt but added that automaker would need the support of both federal incentives and higher gas prices to drive demand for its more fuel-efficient cars.
"We're now sufficiently confident in the Volt technology and the batteries that we can start looking at other alternatives, derivatives of the Volt system," Lutz told reporters at the Detroit Auto Show.
"As we've said with Chevy Volt, it's going to be enter production at the end of 2010 and other vehicles could follow on with that," Lutz said.
Lutz was speaking after GM showed off a luxury spin-off of the Volt, a rechargeable concept vehicle dubbed the Cadillac Converj that like the Volt is being designed to run for 40 miles on battery power alone.
GM's sales dropped 23 percent in 2008 and the automaker came within days of running out of cash before the Bush administration approved its request in late December for $13.4 billion in emergency loans.
Lutz said a fiscal stimulus plan being readied by the incoming Obama administration should include "heavy federal incentives" to encourage consumers to buy more fuel efficient cars.
"Clearly we never made any secret out of the fact we're not going to make much money off the Volt until the cost of batteries goes down, and we're really looking for federal tax credits either for us or consumers to make the cars more affordable," Lutz said.
The current drop in oil prices makes electric vehicles and hybrids a "tough sell" for automakers, Lutz said.
"We all recognize we want to use less petroleum. The way you use less of something in the marketplace is to raise the prices," Lutz said. "At some point those who make rules have to recognize the fact."
(Reporting by Soyoung Kim, editing by Peter Bohan and Kevin Krolicki)