Thursday, February 18, 2010

GM: "We�"re Forced to Make Hybrids." But Which Ones?

Last week, General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz repeated his long-held opinion that hybrid gas-electric cars have a limited market and will not be profitable for the company. Yet, he believes GM will be forced to make more hybrids because of tougher fuel efficiency regulations. This begs the question: What hybrids should we expect from GM?

Slow and False Starts

Cadillac CTS

The CTS, Cadillac�"s smallest sedan, has won rave reviews. Expect the CTS, and other smaller Caddies, to be offered with a full hybrid option, around 2012.

GM currently sells hybrid versions of large SUVs�the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid�as well as the Chevy Silverado hybrid pickup truck. These vehicles, which sell in relatively low numbers, use the company�"s two-mode hybrid system, aimed at improved fuel economy while maintaining high-performance and towing capacity.

The company had been selling mild hybrids, in the form of the Chevy Malibu, Saturn Vue, and Saturn Aura�but those have been canceled. A plug-in hybrid version of the Saturn Vue crossover SUV was also jettisoned�although it may show up with different branding.

Cadillac Full Hybrids

According to Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics, the two-mode system will be migrating down to rear-drive sedans�the Cadillac ATS and CTS. The ATS, a luxury compact sometime referred to as a �Sbaby Caddy,⬝ is expected to go on sale in the US next year. Hall expects that the next-generation CTS, scheduled for 2012, eventually will offer the next-generation hybrid system. Hall�"s viewpoint is supported by General Motors announcement last month that it will set up a $246 million facility to build electric motors to power future hybrids. GM said that the newly designed electric motors would appear in 2013.

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