Dan Akerson bets on the 2015 Impala Bi-Fuel, but will it sell?

Article by Anita Panait, on October 24, 2013

General Motors will be selling a version of the Chevrolet Impala sedan that could switch between gasoline and natural gas, chief executive Dan Akerson has announced. The move is part of GM's plan to take advantage of a drilling boom in the United States that has made natural gas a more viable fuel for cars. The dual-fuel Impala will have one engine and two fuel tanks: one for gasoline and the other for compressed natural gas.

Drivers could almost instantly switch between the two fuels, depending on what they perceive as cheap and available. Akerson remarked that there will be nothing like the duel-fuel Impala on the road. A number of carmakers sell CNG-fueled pickups.  With the launch of the CNG-powered Impala sedan, GM is giving us a preview of what it is seeing as the future of natural gas in the passenger-car market. According to Akerson, CNG Impala will have a combined range of up to 500 miles. It boasts of a gasoline tank that could go up to 350 miles and a CNG tank that could go for 150 miles.

The CNG Impala sedan could be available next summer as a 2015 model. According to GM, CNG Impala will be sold to both fleet and retail buyers. The CNG Impala is expected to appeal to most corporate and government fleet customers -- which prefer fuel efficient vehicles and generally have easier access to natural-gas fueling stations, according to Alan Baum, an industry consultant.

He, however, said that while some corporate fleet business is expected given the roominess of the Impala, GM's focus has been for less fleet business for the sedan, not more. He added that the decision to fit the CNG technology on the Impala rather than another vehicle was "curious," as GM is repositioning the nameplate as a showroom head turner with the spring launch of the 2014 model, which is more expensive  and more stylish than its predecessor.

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