Mileage hot topic at Nashville Auto Show

Wednesday, December 1, 2010
At 60 miles per gallon, GM's Volt has become the most fuel efficient auto, topping Toyota's Prius that gets about 50 mpg.

NASHVILLE -- While speculation continues in South Central Tennessee about what GM will do with its vehicle production line in Spring Hill, an international auto show on Broadway last weekend displayed cars in production, soon to be manufactured and some being discontinued.

Meanwhile, Ford and GM dealership spokesmen in Lewisburg on Monday offered various points about hybrid vehicles on display at the Nashville Auto Show.

"We're ready for the Volt," Richard Lyons, who runs his own GM dealership on Ellington Parkway, said about GM's plug-in electric car with a gas-powered generator. "They won't be in the Southeast until the fall of next year. They wanted to be sure the market was ready."

Stan McNabb Ford sales manager Craig Johnson just up the parkway says the dealership hasn't received a hybrid car there yet.

There's a hybrid Ford Fusion on the market that gets an estimated 41-mpg in city driving and 34-mpg on the highway. Lincoln's MKZ hybrid averages 40 mpg.

"The hybrid is a new technology and it does save gas, but there is some cost there," Johnson said, noting a higher sales price. "They're good for some customers and some not, in my opinion.

"The Ford hybrid technology runs on gasoline and it's assisted by electric motors," he said. "You burn most of your gas when you take off" from a full stop.

"The Volt and [Nissan] Leaf are primarily electric," Johnson said.

Lyons said, "The good thing about the Volt is that GM wanted to use the 110 outlet so you can charge it any where." A 220-amp charger unit is also available for faster charging.

At the Volt display in the Nashville Convention Center, Frank Hartley, fleet manager for Wilson Motors in Lebanon, learned that the Volt would be first sold starting in December at Washington, D.C., New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan, Texas and California.

As for the Volt and GM's plant in neighboring Maury County, Hartley said, "I don't think the Saturn plant will have anything to do with this."

Consulted later, Lyons said, "I think the GM plant in Spring Hill will be at full capacity in late 2011 or 2012. I've heard a small truck or a small SUV" might be built there.

Near the Volt display at the auto show was a four-door HHR, GM's counterpart to Chrysler's PT Cruiser; both looking like station wagons from another era.

"This is the last year for the HHR," Hartley said. "Something will come out to replace it. I don't know what, but it could be something they build in Spring Hill."

Lyons was asked: What might replace the HHR?

"They're coming out with a small van-like vehicle, and there's the Spark, a small vehicle aimed at those age 16 to maybe 25," Lyons said. "It's a flashier car in bright colors.

"It will be high tech with USB ports [for computer connections] and Bluetooth" technology for cell-phones," he said.