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GM unveils Volt, calls loans key

On General Motors' 100th anniversary, workers cheered as the company revealed the electric-powered car intended to make it a vehicle technology leader.

But after all the hoopla surrounding the Chevrolet Volt, executives also say a government loan package and access to credit are important parts of GM's next century.

Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, speaking to reporters at Tuesday's centennial celebration inside GM's world headquarters, said the recent turmoil in the financial markets should not affect the loan package now before Congress.

The $25 billion in loans were approved last year as part of an energy bill and should now be funded to help the industry build next-generation automobiles and meet government fuel economy standards, Wagoner said.

“Really a relatively small fraction of the investment the industry will have to make to achieve these improvements was to be provided for by direct loans,” Wagoner said. “We're just asking that those loans now be funded and that the rules and procedures to be able to draw against those loans be finalized promptly.”

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have been working to get Congress to fund the loans after months of tight credit markets, tepid sales and high gasoline prices.

Fritz Henderson, GM's chief operating officer, later told reporters the company may have to make further cuts if the loans don't come through and the U.S. auto market doesn't recover.

“We could have to do some more things for sure,” he said. “Do I have my game plan laid out today? No.”

GM, which has lost $57.5 billion in the past year and a half, has a liquidity plan that calls for $10 billion in internal cuts and raising another $5 billion through asset sales and borrowing over the next 15 months.

The company may have to cut more costs if credit markets remain tight, Henderson said. While he expected GM to meet its liquidity targets, Henderson said he could not predict what will happen in the credit markets, which affect consumer as well as corporate borrowing.

At the celebration, Wagoner showed off the production version of the Volt, which will be able to go 40 miles on a single charge from a home outlet.

“General Motors' second century starts right now,” he said as Vice Chairman Bob Lutz drove the four-passenger sedan onto a stage.

GM said it will cost about 80 cents to fully charge the Volt at 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is about the national average rate. After that, the batteries will be recharged by a small gasoline engine that allows the car to travel hundreds more miles.

GM hasn't announced the Volt's pricing, but it's expected to cost between $30,000 and $40,000.

The Volt is due in U.S. showrooms by November 2010.

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