The Loss of Saturn Hybrids ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: The Loss of Saturn Hybrids

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Loss of Saturn Hybrids

GM has said they will stop building Saturn models with the 2009 MY, which means they will stop building Saturn vehicles in just a few weeks. That means GM is ending their Saturn hybrid line-up, the Vue and Aura hybrids. The Vue was also scheduled to come out with a plug-in version as well as a full hybrid two-mode hybrid engine.

There are three things here that need to be discussed (Source for the basis of two of the three issues: autonews). One, how the loss of the fuel efficient line-up from Saturn will affect GM under CAFE. Two, the loss of so much of their hybrid line-up (two of their six hybrid models) will have an affect on the image GM wants to present. And three, how the loss of Saturn will affect people's image of GM.

CAFE and the Loss of Saturn
First, the CAFE standards shouldn't be a problem as far as losing the more fuel efficient line-up from Saturn. Since GM is also cutting Hummer and Pontiac, the initial hit will be minor for their overall fleet. The long term shouldn't be a problem in relation to whether they kept Saturn or not. They just don't sell enough Saturns to make a big enough difference in the upcoming years when they really will have to increase their overall fuel economy levels.

The Loss of Saturn Means the Loss of Hybrids
The other issue is their hybrid technology, which won't be lost. The mild hybrid versions of the Aura and Vue were already incorporated into the mild hybrid Malibu. The BAS system from GM hasn't been very popular with buyers, but it's still there and it's still a cheap option to be employed elsewhere to raise the GM fleet's fuel economy.

The Vue two-mode, while it would have been exciting to see a full hybrid with Saturn badging, wasn't native to Saturn. The dual mode hybrid system was co-developed by GM, BMW and Chrysler and has already been sold in the Hybrid Tahoe and Yukon SUVs since last May. And more recently, it's been deployed in the Hybrid Silverado and Sierra truck platform. So there's no loss there.

The plug-in Vue may be the biggest loss, since it would have been the first major plug-in SUV on the road from a major automaker. It's unknown what kind of system the plug-in Vue would have employed, since it was never really backed by the hype machine the Chevy Volt has enjoyed. It may have been a technical nightmare or it may have been lauded as the next best thing. We'll never know now.

The real loss here is the test-bed Saturn has been, especially the Vue. Over the past few years, GM has used the Vue to showcase and test out their mild hybrid system (BAS), and was slated to receive the full mode hybrid system as well as the plug-in hybrid electric motor. GM is also losing out on 25% of their hybrid car sales, even if the were mild hybrids, which may be harder to swallow from an image standpoint. But the Saturn line-up hasn't exactly wowed spectators with their sales, anyways.

Goodbye Saturn
Mostly, what they're losing in the Saturn hybrid vehicles is their sympathy. The Saturn divisions was supposed to be different. It garnered a lot of support, a lot of popularity, and a lot of positive feelings towards GM. The hybrid models were part of that image. But like Saturn itself, it seems that those dreams of a better GM are going nowhere.

Other people have told the story of Saturn and how it got lost on the way, so I won't go much farther than this. It just makes me sad to say goodbye and I guess I just wanted to send that out there.

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