GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner has been and will continue to be cautious in his approach to hybrids. In the meantime, GM is going to keep developing bigger vehicles that will also have better fuel economy.
Wagoner also expects gas prices to come back down based on the current supply and demand equation for oil. He is predicting gas prices will not "get to a price range when it would affect behavior". He expects gas prices would need to be well over $3 a gallon in order to significantly hurt consumers.
In the meantime, Wagoner is uncertain about the future for hybrids.
"A question I'm often asked is: How big the hybrid market could get to be? The honest answer to that is, I don't think anybody really knows. If you believe we're going to be at $120 (per barrel oil price) for a long period of time, the answer is a heck of a lot more than if you believe $60. Consumers will drive this. Our focus is to make sure we have the capability."
GM is launching its new Saturn Vue Green line later this year. Its base price should start at $23,000, which puts it well below other hybrid SUVs. But, the Saturn Vue Green is not a full hybrid in the sense that the electric engine is not capable of running the vehicle at low speeds. The gas engine will shut off when the vehicle is stopped and regenerative breaking is used to recharge the batteries. But the conventional gas engine gets 22/27 mpg with an automatic transmission. The hybrid will improve that EPA esimate to 27/32 mpg.