HOUSTON, March 6 (Reuters) - General Motors Co is targeting a reduction in the weight of its vehicles of up to 15 percent through the 2016 model year, the U.S. automaker's top executive said on Wednesday.
"We will reduce vehicle mass," Chief Executive Dan Akerson said in a speech he is scheduled to deliver at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference in Houston. "A good rule of thumb is that a 10 percent reduction in curb weight will reduce fuel consumption by about 6.5 percent."
GM, which provided a copy of the speech, will introduce 2016-model cars and trucks in the fall of 2015.
Akerson also called on U.S. President Barack Obama to appoint a blue-ribbon commission to develop a 30-year U.S. energy policy framework with checkpoints every five years.
He said the group needs to include a broad cross-section of energy producers, such as utilities and oil, gas and mining companies; labor groups; and energy consumers such as GM, working together to negotiate clear targets and a timeline to advance the U.S. energy agenda.
The U.S. auto industry is pushing to meet the government's requirement for corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon (23.2 km per liter) by 2025.
Last fall, GM said it was targeting building up to 500,000 vehicles a year that include some form of electrification by 2017, including cars such as the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. On Wednesday, Akerson said that commitment would save 12 billion gallons (45.4 billion liters) of fuel over the life of the vehicles GM builds between 2011 and 2017.
He also said natural gas as a motor fuel represents a "huge and largely untapped opportunity for commercial fleets and long-haul truckers". Energy diversity is critical, he said.
Akerson said nearly every president since Richard Nixon has grappled with high oil costs and the solutions have largely consisted of curbing demand via regulatory pressure and incentives to speed the adoption of alternative energy. Policymakers have not established a long-term, cohesive energy policy.
"We were reactive, lurching from crisis to crisis. And before you knew it, we were all wearing sweaters and driving 55 mph," he said.
In addition to lighter vehicles and more electrification, GM is investing in advanced materials such as nano steels and carbon fiber, deploying clean diesel engines, rolling out such technologies as turbocharging and direct injection, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions in manufacturing, Akerson said.