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Published: Wednesday, 1/12/2011

GM speeding development of new autos, CEO says

DETROIT -- A big cut in product development spending while General Motors Co. was in bankruptcy protection set the company's product-development plans back by about a year, its top executive told reporters Tuesday.

Daniel Akerson, the automaker's chairman and chief executive officer, said GM is working to accelerate vehicle plans that were postponed when research and development spending was cut to $5 billion a year as GM was trying to save money during its 2009 stay in bankruptcy protection. The spending has since been restored to $7 billion.

GM executives have been scrambling to get the new products back on track, trying not to fall too far behind competitors such as Ford Motor Co. as they update cars and trucks more regularly. Newly redesigned cars and trucks tend to sell faster because they take advantage of new technology and are quieter, handle better, and generally are more efficient.

Mr. Akerson wouldn't identify which vehicles have been fast-tracked for development. The company had delayed its next-generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks during its financial crisis, and its Impala full-size sedan also is among its older vehicles.

He also said new hatchback and small-van versions of the Chevrolet Volt, its rechargeable electric car, are in the works for 2012 or 2013.

He said the firm's lineup is competitive with the industry now, having introduced the Volt, Chevrolet Cruze compact, and Chevrolet Sonic subcompact in the past few months.

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