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Quick Hits: GM's Electric Shock


Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

The auto industry's considering shock treatment.

Well, not exactly. But in response to plummeting sales and skyrocketing fuel prices, car manufacturers are catering production to consumers' first priority: Spending less on gas.

Ford (F) is trying to wean its drivers off gas by shifting focus away from its iconic pickup trucks; instead, it's building more small cars. The company plans to announce this new direction when it releases second-quarter earnings on Thursday.

Ford will convert three of its assembly plants from trucks to cars, and dedicate more factories to manufacturing fuel-efficient engines. It will also bring 6 of its next European models -- generally more compact than even America's smallest cars -- to the U.S.

General Motors (GM) is pursuing even more radical innovation: It plans to team up with three dozen electric utilities -- including ConEd (ED), PG&E (PCG) and American Electric (AEP) -- to develop a viable electric car within two years.

The model would run primarily on electricity, and use gas only as a supplement. GM hopes that the first models, the Chevy Volt and Saturn Vue, will resuscitate sluggish sales.

The auto industry's finally getting serious about fuel efficiency - think of the current market upheavals as a form of electric shock.
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