The world’s largest automaker says it will offer hybrid engines on pickup trucks beginning this fall. The new type of engine is a combination of gasoline and electric motors. General Motors says it will expand its hybrid offerings to several types of vehicles during the next four years. Other automakers are also adding hybrids to their product lines. But as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland reports, GM says it will need help making the hybrid program a success:
The world’s largest automaker says it will offer hybrid engines on pickup trucks beginning this
fall. The new type of engine is a combination of gasoline and electric motors. General Motors
says it will expand its hybrid offerings to several types of vehicles during the next four years. Other
automakers are also adding hybrids to their product lines. But as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Michael Leland reports, GM says it will need help making the hybrid program a success:
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General Motors says it believes there is a strong market for hybrid vehicles, if those vehicles are
the larger models popular with most consumers. At the North American International Auto Show
in Detroit, GM C.E.O., Rick Wagoner said that’s why his company is putting the engines in
pickup trucks, SUVs and midsize cars.
“We play in the whole market. We sell the biggest trucks, we sell the smallest cars, we are going
to offer the full range of technologies, and you know what? The customer is going to buy what
they want to buy. What we are trying to do is, very importantly, offer products that people want
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There are several types of hybrid engines, but most are a combination of a traditional gasoline,
internal combustion engine, and a small electric motor. The result is higher gas mileage and
lower emissions. Existing hybrid cars get as much as 68 miles to the gallon.
Later this year, GM will offer hybrid engines in its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup
trucks. During the next few years, the company will offer them in other SUVs and midsize cars.
GM is not alone in planning larger hybrid vehicles. In a few months, Ford begins selling a hybrid
version of its Escape SUV, and within a couple of years, Toyota will offer a hybrid Lexus SUV.
David Friedman is with the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group that promotes a
cleaner environment. He says this is a good trend.
“This allows consumers to own their SUV, own their minivan, own their pickup truck and able to
afford paying gas every month.”
But while hybrids can save their owners money at the gas pump, they also cost more than
traditional gasoline-powered vehicles – as much as four-thousand dollars more. GM’s Rick
Wagoner says that’s why the federal government needs to help promote the new technology.
“Whether that is in the mandatory use of hybrid vehicles in government fleets or extensive
consumer tax credits to encourage retail sales. In our view, both of these will be required and
People who buy hybrid-engine cars now can qualify for a two-thousand dollar tax deduction. The
Union of Concerned Scientists and automakers say a tax credit would be better. They say a credit
would save car owners more money in the long run.
Analyst David Cole at the Center for Automotive Research says incentives could help persuade
more people to give hybrid technology a try.
“I think today that the consumer is extremely confused by all of the technology that’s out there.
Ultimately what really counts is whether it is going to deliver value at an affordable price, and that
question has not been answered yet.”
GM says it considers hybrid engine vehicles a way to help reduce emissions. The vehicles can
also help reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil now, while carmakers develop hydrogen-based
fuel cell engines. That technology is still considered a long way off for most drivers. David
Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists looks forward to a day when several types of
engines are available.
“When a consumer walks into a showroom, they should be able to choose conventional vehicles,
hybrid vehicles, fuel cell vehicles, and then the market will really shake out a lot of good options
for consumers who want to save money on fuel.”
Only about 40-thousand hybrid vehicles were sold last year. But, General Motors says it hopes to
sell as many as a million by 2007 if the demand is there. The automaker believes the way to
create that demand is through tax incentives.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Michael Leland.