Announcements from Multiple Automakers

Yesterday was a busy day in the automobile market with major announcements from GM, Saturn and Honda.

Saturn Unveils New Mid-Size Aura 
Saturn debuted its new mid-size Aura yesterday, with company officials saying they hope its European-inspired design will entice customers back to the brand for General Motors Corp. (GM), which has been fighting slowing sales in the U.S.

The Aura sedan is being built at GM's Fairfax plant in Kansas City, KA, and Saturn plans to have the cars on lots by the end of July. Prices have not yet been announced.

The Aura features a panoramic roof and a standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The standard model is expected to get 20 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway.

Fairfax, the only plant in the country building the Aura, hopes to add about 200 jobs for the new line. That will mean more job security for the about 2,500 employees at the plant, which also builds the Chevrolet Malibu.

Honda Announces American Plant Expansion
Honda Motor Co. outlined an aggressive expansion plan yesterdat that will see new car plants in the United States and Japan to power it to a fresh global sales forecast of at least 4.5 million cars in 2010.

Much of the strength has come from Honda's firm manufacturing footprint in local markets and its cutting-edge environmental technology.

To respond to growing demand in North America, Honda will build a $140 million engine plant near its existing assembly plant in Ontario, Canada, with annual output capacity of 200,000 units. The factory will begin operating in 2008, it said, with a planned headcount of 340 workers.

The Tokyo-based auto maker will also spend an additional $400 million on a sixth North American car plant with planned capacity of 200,000 units a year. The factory, whose U.S. location is due to be announced by the end of July, will build passenger cars starting in 2008 and employ more than 1,500 people.

The U.S. plant will raise Honda's North American production capacity to 1.6 million cars from 1.4 million. Last business year, Honda sold 1.682 million cars in North America.

Honda, which boasts the best average fuel economy among auto makers in the United States, said it would also strive to cut its vehicles' average carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent by 2010 from 2000 levels, even as it sells more cars in the bigger SUV and pickup segments.

To help reach that goal, Honda said it was developing a new, low-cost hybrid car to be sold in 2009 at a price lower than its popular Civic hybrid. It aims to sell 200,000 units of the car a year worldwide -- half of that expected in North America.

Honda said it was also developing a clean four-cylinder diesel engine that would meet the United States' strict Tier2 BIN5 environmental standards that require nitrogen oxide emission levels equivalent to those from a gasoline-powered vehicle.

GM to Introduce New Engines and Powertrains 
General Motors Corp. (GM), the world's largest auto maker, has announced it plans to introduce 19 new engines and powertrains that improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.

The powertrain line-up for its model year 2007 cars range from hybrids and small-block truck engines to those that use ethanol.

The Detroit company has also announced that it plans to restructure its corporate controller's office and hire a financial advisory firm.

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