The GM Possibilities ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: The GM Possibilities

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The GM Possibilities

GM currently has five hybrid vehicles on the market, or to put it another way, 1/3 of the total number of models being sold come from some part of GM. Whether it's the Saturn Vue, Saturn Aura, GMC Yukon, Chevy Malibu, or Chevy Tahoe, GM is serious about providing options when it comes to hybrid powertrains.

Too bad that many options isn't turning into more sales. In the first quarter of 2008, GM sold 843 hybrids in the US. That's about 2% of the total number of Prius sold by Toyota in the same time frame.

The problems have been detailed by GM pointing to a recall on the battery packs involved in the mild hybrids and the lack of production so far on the full hybrids, which in itself is understandable since they are so new.

And it's probably unfair to compare sales of a more established car like the Prius to sales of even five different models. GM, despite the low production numbers so far, still target 10,000 sales of their Yukon and Tahoe Hybrids this year. That would take a considerable ramp up, but it's certainly do-able.

But there's a real problem here. None of the hybrid vehicles from GM compete in the same class or fuel economy with the Toyota Prius. They don't even come close. They are either much larger or too mild.

Even with the addition of the Escalade, Sierra and Silverado, along with updates on the mild hybrid Vue into a dual-mode hybrid in the next couple of years, you will be seeing more of the same. More options, it's true, but not in the class of car most of the people who have shown the most interest in hybrid cars are buying.

Aren't these the customers GM should be looking to?

GM has admitted it was a mistake not to pursue hybrid technology 10 years ago. And in compensation, they are now pushing hard to produce the Chevy Volt, which may be capable of standing toe-to-toe with the plug-in version of the Prius.

But why not try to produce a car that can compete with the Prius?

Is this attempt at building the Volt just greenwashing? They already use the Volt in all of their 'green' commercials. They certainly talk about it a lot, to the point where I think it's being overhyped. But that doesn't mean it won't happen.

It's just hard to remember when GM is still focusing so hard on a goal that's still far away. They are at a real hard point, given their low sales numbers so far, to prove they are serious about their effort to sell hybrid cars.

It's an unfortunate point in time that they could have avoided if they could point to stronger sales in their other hybrids (the Vue, Malibue and Aura). No one expects huge numbers from these mild hybrids, but at less than 100 a month for the Vue and Aura combined, it's very hard to take GM seriously when they say they are serious about hybrids.

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