Over in Russia, they have a saying: "We're slow to saddle a horse, but once we do, we ride fast." I'm not sure what other connections Detroit may have to the Motherland, but they both do seem to share the "slow to saddle" trait. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, General Motors (NYSE:GM) has proved itself one of the slowest of the automakers to adopt and market hybrid gas-electric vehicles. But of the hybrids whose North American launch dates have been announced, the world's largest automaker holds the title for "most new models on the drawing board." Let's run down the tally.

To date, green car buyers have a total of six makes/models to choose from: Honda (NYSE:HMC) was first to market with its Insight hatchback and now also offers a hybrid Civic sedan. Toyota (NYSE:TM) introduced its market-dominating Prius in between the arrival of Honda's two offerings. And Ford (NYSE:F) has begun selling its hybrid Escape SUV. Ford's next-door neighbor, GM, is so far selling just a few Chevy Silverados (and their twin GMC Sierras), and only in selected U.S. markets.

Over the next few months, the race gets a little tighter, as Honda fields a hybrid Accord and Toyota begins to offer two hybrid SUVs: the Lexus RX400h and the Toyota Highlander. And late next year, we start getting some real selection in the market. Ford's Mercury unit will put out a second hybrid SUV, the Mariner; GM's Saturn unit will field its first hybrid SUV, the Vue; Toyota will begin selling its hybrid Camry; and Nissan (NASDAQ:NSANY) will join in the fun with its hybrid Altima.

Only in 2007 will Detroit really gear up, by offering three new Chevy hybrids: a Malibu sedan and Equinox and Tahoe SUVs; Ford will also put out a hybrid Futura sedan. A couple weeks ago, I suggested that 2007 may already be too late -- that Toyota, which is currently flooding the market with its Prii, may have already fed the American market all the green cars it can eat. But there's another possibility to consider. What if 100,000 Prii a year don't just satiate our green car buyers? What if the first-to-market hybrids rather whet the general public's appetite for fuel-efficient vehicles in an era of, what -- $2 a gallon gas? Three dollars a gallon?

If that happens, and if by then GM is offering six of the 17 hybrid options available, it's just possible that GM would ride away with the bulk of the hybrid market.

Read all about the developing war for hybrid vehicle dominion in these electrifying stories:

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article.