By on May 21, 2008

x08ct_ta076.jpgMSNBC reports on dismal sales of the overhyped Dual Mode Yukotahoe Hybrid, currently running hundreds of units per month. Given its $50k+ price tag and complete lack of wiggle room on price (especially compared to its non-hybrid counterparts), this comes as little surprise in the extremely price-sensitive US market. Unfortunately GM and their hybrid transmission factory, projected sales were 10-15k units this year. That's not quite as bad as TTAC's whipping boy (the Cadillac BLS), but underutilized capacity is a Very Bad Thing in this economic climate. What does this mean for the upcoming Saturn Vue Dual Mode Hybrid? It's estimated $30k price tag just might be the sweet spot. Or not. GM's losing ground in the hybrid SUV race on a daily basis. In the Yukotahoe Hybrid's price range, Toyota's already sold 5,553 Lexus RX 400h's this year. And in the Vue's venue, they've sold 8,889 Highland Hybrids. Even Ford is leaving them in the dust, with 7,132 Escape and Mariner Hybrids out the door since January 1.  

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35 Comments on “GM’s Dual Mode Hybrid SUVs Are a Flop...”


  • avatar
    N85523

    I saw my first GM hybrid in Laramie on Monday. It was a Tahoe with the obligatory three hybrid labels and logos emblazoned across each side. The look-at-me-I’m-an-environmental-do-gooder-but-not-really graphics looked even more awkward in person than they do in PR photos.

  • avatar

    Maybe GM was right. Hybrids are a fad

    at least for them

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    What will help GM is that NYC has a new law going into effect that requires “Black Cars” to be hybrids. All those Lincolns will be replaced with the Yukon XL dual mode and Lexus LS600h.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    SMALL CAR WITH HYBRID DRIVE!

    How hard do we have to beat it into their heads? Enough of the E85 shit already, just license the tech from Toyota and start making cobalts that get 50 MPG. Forget the Volt, no one trusts GM to build something like that, everyone knows it is going to be fraught with problems and short on delivery of it’s promise.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    How about getting rid of the Yukon silverado thing and just having one model?

  • avatar
    Alex Rodriguez

    The technology is sound, it is the application. Why put a hybrid into a high-end, high towing capacity, decked-out Tahoe?

    But your hybrid into your base Tahoe, and maximize the thing for fuel economy. A hybird shopper is not looking of a 50K bling-mobile that can tow a small house. They are looking at price and fuel economy.

    I hope that Chrysler is watching and doesn’t make the same stupid mistake with the Durango Hybrid.

  • avatar
    Point Given

    I’ve just joined lexus as a salesperson, I gotta tell ya the 400h is an ez sell.

    How about this for a small car hybrid. Built off the Yaris but pure Lexus.

    http://www.clublexus.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=513&Itemid=155

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Richard Chen, Thanks for the informative article.

    I have a question, though… who estimates the price of the Vue two-mode at $30K?

    Didn’t anybody at Chevy think it was a bad idea to offer a Chevy hybrid priced so high that one could save $10K by purchasing a Lexus hybrid instead?

    Will history repeat? It seems to me a $40K Volt will hardly sell. GM could get much more bang for their buck by spiffing up the fuel economy of the Aveo and automatic Cobalt.

  • avatar
    N85523

    What will help GM is that NYC has a new law going into effect that requires “Black Cars” to be hybrids.

    Something seems awfully socialist about that. A Lincoln Town Car and a hybrid power-train Tahoe get about the same mileage and the Lincoln costs a lot less. A hybrid car in and of itself is not necessarily an economically or environmentally end-all. See Malibu or Aura hybrid models.

  • avatar
    kkop

    They should offer the big SUVs with a clean diesel engine. Wouldn’t have to cost very much more than gas engine, and is existing, tried technology, with a much better chance at saving fuel than the expensive hybrid tech.

  • avatar

    As soon as pricing was released I plugged it into TrueDelta’s price comparison tool–and found that it was way too high. My analysis upset many GM fans, who then sought to prove that the price difference was smaller than I claimed, and very reasonable.

    Seems the market agrees with TrueDelta’s assessment.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Raskolnikov-
    You just might want to look at the recent MT test on small SUVs.
    The BAS VUE was the slowest to 60 and tied for worst mileage. In general tests of the BAS cars have shown that they fall in the range of their conventional competition on mileage.
    There is a reason I refer to them as Whybrids.

    Just some thoughts.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    dwford

    Actaully, the “black cars” have to get 25mpg – not necessarily be hybrids. So your gonna see an awful lot of black Escape hybrids running around. I wonder if you can stretch those….

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    @Point Given

    I hope you know that is an April Fool’s joke…being that it’s dated April 1.

    I have seen 1 Hybrid Tahoe in Boise. New level of smugness I presume, just a more rare specie.

    Ford has done a great job selling the Escape Hybrids though, maybe because it’s a smaller vehicle. BUt I like the slight trickle-down effect it’s had on regular 09 Escapes, in the form of aerodynamic changes.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What GM should have done was put hybrid technology into their two brands that, from their demographics, could have carried it: Saab and to a lesser degree, Saturn. Saab has (had?) exactly the demographics for this: left-leaning, affluent, educated urban professionals willing to buy a quirky product. Doesn’t this sound like the kind of people buying Priuses?

    So what does GM do? Slap a hybrid powertrain in the vehicles bought by their most right-leaning, green-hostile, rural/suburban conservative demographic: truck and SUV buyers. They’re planning a hybrid Escalade next. An Escalade! The vehicle that, next to the Hummer H1 or anything made by Lamborghini, is the archetype for conspicuous consumption.

    A well-trained chimpanzee could do a better job of product planning.

    They could have met the Prius head-on and, likely, made good margin. It’s similar to Honda’s flubbing hybrids by not leveraging Acura, only much less forgivable given GM’s greater engineering resources. The only excuse I can think is that GM wants hybrids to fail and thinks that, by screwing it up themselves, they’ll have proven their point. They seem to think the world will say “If GM can’t do it, it must be unfeasible”; instead, the prevailing opinion is “GM is being it’s usual incompetent self.”

    Thinking like a company with 50% marketshare again. I’d guess.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Point Given,

    The idea of making a 4 seat compact into a really comfortable 2 seater is something I have been waiting for. I believe it could be a good seller.

    While I would rather have one with a little zip (not a lot, just a little, like 150hp) the hybrid might work with certain demographics.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    The SUV fad is DYING. Even if they got 30 mpg, people want to be seen in a car that is at least perceived to be more fuel efficient (like the large CUV’s, which do marginally better than SUVs).

    Give it a few more years of $4+ gal/gas and people will even come to realize that pickup trucks are best suited to those with real hauling needs.

  • avatar
    mdmadph

    Considering they probably want these things to fail utterly just so they can claim “See, the American consumer didn’t want hybrids!”, I’d say their plan is working perfectly.

    They’ve got one of these things on a pedestal at my local Chevy dealership, and I tell you, the first time I saw them advertising “New Tahoe Hybrid — 22 mpg!” I seriously thought it was a joke. -_-’ It’s embarrassing to be offering “22 mpg” as something to be proud of.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “All those Lincolns will be replaced with the Yukon XL dual mode and Lexus LS600h.”

    I doubt it. The Yukon and Lexus hybrids are too expensive for that market. The “Town Cars” sold into livery fleets are deeply discounted. A NYC Town Car is really a taxi cab without the medallion and yellow paint. I expect to see a whole lot more Black Escape Hybrids than Yukon dual-modes.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Dumb question: are there any restrictions on these when you want to back up partially in the lake to pull the boat out?

    That’s gonna leave a mark.

  • avatar
    Raskolnikov

    From the article “Toprak points to Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid SUV as an example. It costs about $7,000 more than the conventional Highlander, and in terms of sales it failed miserably, he said. To push it off dealers’ lots Toyota was forced to come up with extremely generous incentives, he said.”

    Dealers might be doing the same with these in the future.
    However, do we know if this is a supply issue? Panasonic supplies the batteries for Toyota, GM, and Allison transmission hybrid systems, just to name a few. I know for a fact that HSD and Allison Ep40/50 production is constrained by Panasonic. If GM’s 2 mode system is constrained as well, then could it be that dealers simply don’t have any to sell?

    I said this before; as my wife and I were in a Saturn dealership last month we asked about the availability of the BAS VUE hybrid. They laughed and gave us a “yeah right” look. They explained that they simply cannot get them, and the 1 they’ve been allocated for the 2nd qtr has been sold since March.

  • avatar
    detroit1701

    Americans will never give up the thrill of driving a powerful car. Small, 1.2L econo-hatches are made for a European driving climate, where the streets are small, populations live in more compact spaces, and people do most of their inter-city commuting on rail.

    The U.S. has a vast highway network — and driving light, small-engined cars that need to rev in excess of 3300 rpms to achieve 65 mph is noisy and exhausting. Believe me, I drove around most of Western Europe in a 75hp car (Ford Fiesta) — and it is zero fun on long hauls. $4/gallon + combined 28 mpg may be something that Americans will end up settling for. I predict that Americans will simply shift other discretionary spending into gasoline — and forgo other things, like eating out, driving around without a purpose, airfare, and electronic gadgetry.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    jthorner,
    I may be biased because I spend my time on the East Side and Wall Street.

    Also, I think the NYC law changed not just for mileage, but to stop all the emissions created from cars idling so much. Buildings need to breath too.

  • avatar
    gawdodirt

    Sad deal really since the appliction/execution is light years ahead of any Lex-ota. Sure they sell, but it’s because of the “anything built here is junk” mentality. The Hybrid market doesn’t want something good or flawless, the want something cheap and foreign.
    Fact is that the Allison dual mode has been proven in huge urban busses for over 8 years in flawless execution. It’s more proven than the Prius!
    If you have to tow occasionally, you CAN’t do it as efficiently as the GM Dual mode. Period.

    BMW and Mercedes bought into it for a reason. It’s flawless in the transition.

    Drive one. The Vue will use the same tech. Give it a comparison drive.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @KixStart: I’ve seen a couple of articles try to take the price of a basic Vue and tack the estimated $8-$10k dual mode transmission cost, and the $30k number is what they seem to settle on. The actual price is unknown, of course; it’s presumed that the dual mode Vue will cost a good amount more than the $25k starting price of the BAS Vue Green Line.

    @Raskolnikov: Frank Williams pointed out when editing this submission that Highlander Hybrid sales are actually up 3.5% YTD. My local dealer is selling them as well as Priuses at MSRP. As for dual mode hybrid supply issues, I read a few months ago that the transmission plant was to go to 2 shifts capable of building about 180 units daily. Multiply that x5d/wk, x48wk/yr = 43,200, so no problems there.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    gawdodirt:Fact is that the Allison dual mode has been proven in huge urban busses for over 8 years in flawless execution. It’s more proven than the Prius!
    If you have to tow occasionally, you CAN’t do it as efficiently as the GM Dual mode. Period.

    Toyota has been making hybrid trucks (albeit not in North America) through Hino and under the Toyota Dyna line since the 1990s. And yes, the Dynas are as much a “real” truck as the Allison transmission-equipped buses are.

    The Allison unit is impressive, but GM hasn’t been able to scale it down to a small car (the smallest implementation that you can buy is the GMT900s). That should tell you something.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    BMW and Mercedes bought into it for a reason. It’s flawless in the transition.

    Yeah, but they dumped it for another reason: it’s aforementioned expense. But I’ll leave you to your regularly scheduled fanboi rationalization.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    gawdodirt :

    Fact is that the Allison dual mode has been proven in huge urban busses for over 8 years in flawless execution. It’s more proven than the Prius!

    The Prius is in its’ 11th year of production and I’d venture to guess there are many more of them on the road than the hybrid buses with no glaring faults.

  • avatar
    ton12

    The sooner the dual mode is in the Malibu, the better.
    Hybrid buyers want to save money and save emissions. Period.
    Getting a large SUV from 14 to 21 MPG overall seems like a lot of effort for little return. 21 MPG is only considered great if you need something this big. Most people were buyng large SUV’s because they wanted them, not needed them. This crowd has many many less expensive options to improve mileage than to spend $50K on a hybrid.

  • avatar
    Mcloud1

    I say that these SUV hybrids are just a GM greenwashing pawn. The only reason why they are producing these is so Rick Wagoner can stand at a podium, and say “GM is a green minded company”. Of course, you must forget the fact that they ordered every one of their EV1 electric cars destroyed, in order to push more SUVs. I see the Tahoe hybrid as the stupid idea and bad product it is. How it won green car of the year over the Tesla Roadstar or Fisker Karma still boggles me.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Dumb question: are there any restrictions on these when you want to back up partially in the lake to pull the boat out?

    That’s gonna leave a mark.

    Well the U boats ran on batteries, but to make these batt water proof ts gong to take lotsa more effort.

  • avatar
    gawdodirt

    “The Allison unit is impressive, but GM hasn’t been able to scale it down to a small car (the smallest implementation that you can buy is the GMT900s). That should tell you something.”

    Not true. I hear they have a very nice FWD unit ready to sell. And this article mentioned a Saturn Vue Dual Mode. So where did you get your info

    “The Prius is in its’ 11th year of production and I’d venture to guess there are many more of them on the road than the hybrid buses with no glaring faults.”

    8 yrs of “production” for the buses. And more people hauled than the sum total of Pious’s, since they were used in Urban Transit detail.
    12 years total for development and prototyping. I seached and found many Prius falts. Google it! “Prius Failures.”

    Dumb question: Do you blow dry your hair in the shower?

  • avatar
    serpico

    Ah ya, price. No surprise here. If it was affordable, I would be interested. But this is just another dumb move by GM to overprice and show everyone we need to depend on oil. That it can’t be done. Same thing with diesel. Whatever.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    8 yrs of “production” for the buses. And more people hauled than the sum total of Pious’s, since they were used in Urban Transit detail.
    12 years total for development and prototyping. I seached and found many Prius falts. Google it! “Prius Failures.”

    OK, I googled exactly that. What I came up with was a navi failure (same system used across the Toyota/Lexus lineup), a brake failure, and some quibbling about potential software failures. The end of the first page of hits culminated with some hypotheses of what “makes a project a success or failure,” wherein the Prius seems to have been marked in the “success” column. That google term couldn’t even come up with an entire page of Prius problems, which is impressive given that there’s 1,000,000 people piloting these things. If there were problems to bitch about, I presume we’d see a lot of bitching on the intertubes.

    C’mon.

    The truth of the matter is that whether you love it or loathe it, the Prius and Toyota’s hybrid setup in general have an exemplary record for initial and long-term quality, both from JD Power and Consumer Reports. The Prius has a high repurchase rate and a strong “would recommend to friends” rate, although I can’t remember the source at the moment, but the study was used heavily in advertising.

    The car’s been on the road since 1997 and I’d be willing to bet that there’s been a lot more miles piled on Hybrid Synergy Drive vehicles since 1997 than have been accrued on the GM/Allison system (not to say that the GM system is bad).

    If I were putting my money on which manufacturer has the most experience with private hybrid vehicles and which system has more research behind it as it applies to my day-to-day driving routine, it sure as hell wouldn’t be General Motors.

  • avatar
    jet1

    Anyone who takes comments like these negatives in to play when shopping new cars is foolish. I spent 3 months researching the hybrids and came to the conclusion that the GMC Yukon/Tahoe is the best bang for the buck out there. To that end i recently bought one, as so far (4k miles) it has been one of the very best cars I have had. I typically only drive foreign cars but decided that we ALL need to start backing AMERICAN products. I typically keep a car up to 10 years and this will probably be my last gas powered car as I think the future is hydrogen, but the infrastructure for that fuel is some years out so this is my way of preserving things.
    So far my new found faith in the American auto industry is pleasantly being renewed daily. Instead of going out and driving to work in your korean car, with your chinese suit on after eating on your vietnamese dining room table, you might want to re-think the whole game or soon you might just be carrying a chairman mao book around and being told what you can and can’t do with every aspect of your life


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