* Plan is part of $8 billion investment worldwide
* Next Volt hybrid to cost thousands of dlrs less to build
By Ben Klayman
DETROIT, Jan 16 General Motors Co will
invest $1.5 billion in its North American plants this year, a
senior executive said on Wednesday, adding the automaker's
next-generation Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid could cost
thousands of dollars less per car to build.
The investment is part of the $8 billion the Detroit
automaker has said it will annually put into in its worldwide
North American chief Mark Reuss, speaking at the Automotive
News World Congress in downtown Detroit, did not provide further
details of the investment plan or year-on-year comparisons.
GM, which has invested $10.2 billion in the North American
market since its 2009 bankruptcy and $50 billion U.S.
taxpayer-funded bailout, has said it will refresh 70 percent of
its U.S. vehicle lineup in 2012 and 2013.
"Our recent track record proves that this kind of continuous
investment in the product pays off," Reuss said.
Despite a lukewarm uptake from consumers, Reuss also said
the electric car is not dead. GM introduced the Cadillac ELR
plug-in hybrid, the upscale sibling of the Chevrolet Volt, at
the Detroit auto show on Tuesday.
"We're talking about a massive transformation that we're
undergoing as an industry, as a nation," he said. "It takes a
long time to change an industry, to change habits and to change
a way of life."
Thousands of dollars in costs per car would be saved in the
next generation of the Volt by adopting a more efficient design
that would allow GM to use smaller vehicle components and save
weight, said Reuss. He declined to say when the next version of
the plug-in hybrid car would be introduced.
He said if GM used a platform built specifically to carry
the EV technology, the car could be smaller and less expensive.
"We will get there," Reuss said. "We will see the day when
we have an affordable electric car that offers 300 miles of
range with all the comfort and utility of a conventional