General Motors Corp.'s first mass-produced hybrid-powered vehicle will be built in Spring Hill, Tenn., and will sport thermoplastic vertical body panels - as GM has picked Saturn Corp.'s new Vue sport utility vehicle, a Saturn official said at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Antec 2003.
Production will begin in 2005 on the hybrid version of the Vue, powered by gasoline and electricity. In a May 6 speech at Antec in Nashville, Jerry Sturdivant said it marks ``the first hybrid GM on full production scale.''
Saturn is a division of GM.
Sturdivant, operations leader for body systems at Saturn , said one reason GM picked the Vue for its first hybrid is Saturn's expertise in a type of transmission that will be used on the hybrids. The Vue also has become a popular seller, he said.
Hybrid vehicles get much better gas mileage than cars with traditional gasoline-only engines.
Answering audience questions after his speech, Sturdivant also said GM officials have not decided yet if a future Saturn minivan will have steel body panels or plastic panels.
General Motors will assemble the Saturn-branded minivan at the GM plant in Doraville, Ga., not in Spring Hill.
GM already makes other vans, the Chevrolet Venture and Pontiac Montana, in Doraville.
Sturdivant - a member of SPE's Middle Tennesee Valley Section - outlined the history of Saturn, which began assembling cars in 1990.
Saturn molds everything, from body panels to under-the-hood parts and interiors, in Spring Hill. Sturdivant is responsible for the manufacturing operations involving body fabrication, painting, injection molding, metal stamping of body parts, adhesives and coatings.
During the past year, Saturn has introduced two new models, the Vue and the Ion, which replaces the original S series. Last month, the company announced it would build a more powerful, sportier version of the Ion and Vue, called the Red Line.
``One thing that has not changed at Saturn is that we still have plastic. A lot of people said when we first started, you're not going to make it with thermoplastics.
``We're still here and still growing strong,'' Sturdivant said.