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Sun 15 Apr 2007 12:00 AM

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'Eco-friendly' hybrid cars for Gulf

General Motors will become the first carmaker to sell 'eco-friendly' hybrid cars in the Gulf.

General Motors will become the first carmaker to sell ‘eco-friendly' hybrid cars in the Gulf,
Arabian Business

can reveal. The US manufacturer is to release a two-mode hybrid version of its popular Chevrolet Tahoe SUV - which runs on electricity, gasoline, or a mixture of the two.

"We want to offer people a choice," Terry Johnsson, managing director for GM Africa and Middle East, told
Arabian Business

. "Even if there's five families who say, ‘Out of my 12 vehicles, I'm going to be the first on the block to have a hybrid vehicle', then that's a good thing."

The full-size SUV will be launched in the autumn, and boasts an electrical engine as well as a conventional combustion engine. Drivers may use regular gasoline, or charge their vehicle through the power grid. The car is expected to deliver a composite (city and highway miles per gallon) fuel economy improvement of 25%.

Carmakers have faced heavy criticism from environmental groups who claim that SUVs and other large vehicles contribute significantly to the problem of climate change.

In response, GM has begun to apply advanced technologies to high-volume, higher fuel-consuming segments.

"It's our choice - instead of bringing a small vehicle, we want to show that people can have their size and their functionality, and can also do everyone a favour with a hybrid," said Johnsson.

Last week GM announced sales growth of 16% for Q1 2007, compared to the same period last year. The Chevrolet Tahoe SUV registered a sales increase of 257% in the Middle East compared to Q1 2006.

Growth was consistent across almost all Middle East markets driven in particular by Saudi Arabia, which traditionally accounts for about 60% of GM's total regional sales. In the Kingdom sales grew by 20% to 18,857 units in the quarter. Sales in the United Arab Emirates, another key market for GM in the region, grew by an impressive 17% to 4186 units.

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