DETROIT - Many powertrain ideas have been discussed since General Motors and Fiat Auto SpA joined ranks in March, but putting a Fiat engine in a GM car for North America isn't one of them.
However, Arv Mueller, GM group vice president of powertrain, doesn't rule out the possibility, especially when it comes to Fiat's line of small diesel car engines.
'All our powertrain lineups are being looked at as to how they can be useful in various regions around the world,' he says.
Fiat and GM announced plans on March 13 to buy a share of each other's carmaking operations. Like other GM partners, including Isuzu and Suzuki, Fiat may share vehicles and powertrains with GM's European subsidiary, Adam Opel. The partnership also will be the way for Fiat to relaunch its Alfa Romeo brand in the USA.
However, Mueller insists the partnership with Fiat is about more than just product swapping. Fiat will be involved when GM develops global engines.
'In these kinds of deals, if you only focus on the product you miss a good deal of the point,' he says. 'The point is bringing more knowledge and assets to the table. If you can combine those effectively, then you generate a stronger company or alliance than you would have separately.'
Fiat executives disclosed to analysts soon after the joint-venture announcement that GM will replace several diesel engines and transmissions with Fiat units. Additionally, Fiat will use diesel V-6s developed by another GM partner, Isuzu.
Mueller, who would not comment on specific plans, said, 'When we were working on the viability of the (joint venture), we ran several what-if kind of scenarios to see what underlying value existed. What we're doing now is refining those proposals. The best ideas we could come up with four weeks ago are not anywhere near as well thought out as the ones that we spent the past four weeks thinking about.'
One area GM plans to explore with Fiat is low-cost production techniques. Mueller admires Fiat's line of small 'Fire' gasoline engines because their design makes them cheap to build.
But the first technology Fiat will share with GM is direct injection, in which fuel is injected directly into the cylinder of a gasoline or diesel engine for better control of emissions.
The fact that Fiat-owned Magneti Marelli developed the first direct-injection system and Fiat has had one on the market for three years gives the company an advantage, says Mueller.
For now, the technology will remain in Europe and South America, but it may be used someday to help reintroduce diesels to North America, Mueller says.
'Eventually, something is going to happen to dislocate the low gasoline prices in the USA, and I would rather be prepared with a good solution for that than be regulated into it,' he says.
'Certainly the clean diesel is a good solution.'