GM’s track record has been less than stellar. First we had the Saturn Vue Green Line, a very “mild” hybrid that paled next to competitors like the Ford Escape. Next came the extraordinarily expensive 2-mode hybrid system used in GM’s pickup trucks and full-sized SUVs, which cost far too much and delivered far too little. Finally, we have the Volt – ’nuff said. No wonder GM’s latest hybrid endeavor has come to market with little fanfare, no “hybrid” logos on the vehicle and no hybrid branding from GM. Can we honestly call the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist a hybrid?
Prior to going on television on Monday, I spoke to a GM spokesman in hopes of better understanding the business case for the Volt. Perhaps the most interesting thing he told me was that a major impetus for developing the Volt as an Extended-Range Electric concept was GM’s failure to achieve success with three alt-energy concepts (EV-1, Hydrogen, and yes, E-85 ethanol) due to their need for fueling infrastructure. As we talked, it occurred to me that three other less-than-entirely-successful GM “green car” projects might have helped lead The General down the primrose path to the Volt: GM’s BAS “Mild Hybrid,” the Parallel Hybrid Truck system (PHT), and the V8-based “Two-Mode” hybrid drivetrains. He admitted (somewhat grudgingly) that GM’s hybrid sales had been “disappointing” and that the ambitious Volt project was to some extent motivated by this lack of market success. What he didn’t tell me: GM is bringing back the discontinued mild-hybrid BAS system for 2011.