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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
...am I allowed to say "gonads" here?

Whoa. Talk about politically incorrect and courageous, listen to what Mr. Lutz had to say about the acclaimed Toyota Prius, (a car that I personally am very impressed with). He asks a good question, though: how much sense does it make to ask a consumer to pay $20K for a hybrid when s/he can purchase a similar car producing similar savings at the gas pump for far less?

Article follows...

GM: Hybrid cars make no sense
GM executive Lutz argues critically acclaimed hybrid compacts like Toyota Prius are bad business.

January 6, 2004: 5:21 PM EST
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money Senior Writer

DETROIT (CNN/Money) - General Motors Corp. has no plans to try to answer the success of the Toyota Prius, the critically-acclaimed gas/electric hybrid car, said Robert Lutz, GM's vice chairman of product development.

It just doesn't make environmental or economic sense to try to put an expensive dual-powertrain system into less expensive cars which already get good mileage, Lutz said at the North American International Auto Show.

more...
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Some additional commentary and information...

Of course, most of us know instinctively that the Prius is garnering its positive reputation more on novelty and the desire to make a statement about the environment, which seems right up the Lutz alley; that is, selling cars on their desirability just as much as anything else. From that perspective, he ought to be praising Toyota.

I sat in the new Prius last night at the LA Auto Show, and I was very impressed. It was actually a really nice little car, hybrid or not. But, of course, it is a hybrid, and an impressively well-engineered one at that.

The Prius is driven primarily by its electric motor, then supplemented by its gasoline motor at higher speeds. This is an important distinction between the Toyota hybrid system and other pioneering hybrids, such as Honda's.

In the case of the Honda Insight, the source of motive power is reversed; that is, the Insight is driven primarily by its gasoline engine and secondarily by its electric motor.

This simple epiphany at Toyota means that the Prius is more fuel efficient and produces some interesting results. For example, the Prius actually gets better gas mileage in city driving than on the highway! You gotta' love that!

The Prius is also a pioneering force in packaging a hybrid. While the first generation Prius was awkward, stuffy, and tight, this new Prius is handsome, comfortable, and surprisingly spacious. As I said, it could pass for a conventional passenger car at pretty close to the same price.

Now, having said all that, I think Lutz is right on the money in terms of practicality, and that's where GM's hybrid effort might be able to one-up Toyota's. If the message resonates that hybrid power is only practical if applied to larger vehicles, where fuel-efficiency and environmental concerns are more legitimate, then the Prius ends up looking like what it really is at this point: a novelty.

In fact, if GM beats Toyota to the punch in terms of more practical application of hybrid power (in perception at least), there's a good chance that GM can steal some thunder and be known as the company that built "the first practical hybrid vehicles for mass consumption".

It wouldn't be the first time. Cadillac, for example, is credited with so much of what we take for granted today: the self-starter, the integrated electrical system, the V8 engine, closed bodies, etc. etc.

...but, Cadillac engineers didn't invent these things, they perfected them.

Same goes for a lot of other great marques that get credit for having invented things they didn't really invent, but made practical. Mercedes-Benz didn't invent the automobile, but Karl Benz was among the first to patent a practical form of an automobile, so he most often gets the credit. Henry Ford didn't invent the production line, but he was the first to make it work on a large scale with automobiles, so he's known as the man who broke the production and affordability barrier. And on and on.

I think this is what Bob Lutz is positioning GM for. He knows his history and he's a brilliant strategist. If this is what he is doing, and if he pulls it off, and if hybrids really do become all the rage until fuel cell vehicles are perfected, GM will be recognized for a pioneering accomplishment in a way that it hasn't been recognized for a long time.
 

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I think Lutz is also right on several other notes:

1. He advocates the performance advantages of hybrids, as not only do the electric motors add power, but they usually have a whole bunch of torque, and they contribute to [fade-free] braking.

2. GM's decision not to pursue a hybrid car was a "mistake from day one," in lost public relations.

I should add that you currently can get a clean-burning CNG Cavalier if you want, for around $30,000. I'd plan on paying cash, as I doubt the residual value on it will be particularly good.

...am I allowed to say "gonads" here?
I think "Procreational Americans" is the proper terminology.

Ghrankenstein
 

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This is an area of aggravation for me. I know that hybrid systems on larger vehicles makes more sense- but it's not all about what makes sense. Lutz knows that Toyota is winning in PR- that's what's important. In the future, GM may get the big page in the history books, but what's that going to do about sales now? It's like an artist becoming famous after his death.

This is why the popular kids win Student Council seats and the smart kids are snubbed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Originally posted by Mr_Pringle@Jan 8 2004, 12:53 PM
This is why the popular kids win Student Council seats and the smart kids are snubbed.
I was class Veep in my High School Junior year, then snubbed the following year. Does that make me smart or popular? :blink:
 

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In fact, if GM beats Toyota to the punch in terms of more practical application of hybrid power (in perception at least), there's a good chance that GM can steal some thunder and be known as the company that built "the first practical hybrid vehicles for mass consumption".
How many years of market and mind share away is that?

If GM doesn't want to do a full-on hybrid, then fine. Do a car like the Saturn VUE, with a small displacement Ecotec, CVT, make the seats out of recycled tire rubber or something ---- just find some way to appeal to environmentalists, greenie-tech-heads, and the Automotive Media NOW, not 5 or 10 years from now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Originally posted by Ming@Jan 8 2004, 01:22 PM
If GM doesn't want to do a full-on hybrid, then fine.  Do a car like the Saturn VUE, with a small displacement Ecotec, CVT, make the seats out of recycled tire rubber or something ---- just find some way to appeal to environmentalists, greenie-tech-heads, and the Automotive Media NOW, not 5 or 10 years from now.
But GM is doing hybrids now.

From the article:


GM started selling its first hybrid vehicles, versions of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, late last year. So far, they are available only to fleet customers. GM won't start selling the hybrid pickups to retail consumers until the third quarter of this year.
(emphasis added)

GM is offering hybrids today, and to the general buying public before year-end. The difference is that GM's application of hybrid power is more practical, which could play strongly to their advantage if Lutz can get his point across. Knowhaddamean?
 

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Originally posted by coolcaddy@Jan 8 2004, 01:43 PM

But GM is doing hybrids now.

From the article:


GM started selling its first hybrid vehicles, versions of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, late last year. So far, they are available only to fleet customers. GM won't start selling the hybrid pickups to retail consumers until the third quarter of this year.
(emphasis added)

GM is offering hybrids today, and to the general buying public before year-end. The difference is that GM's application of hybrid power is more practical, which could play strongly to their advantage if Lutz can get his point across. Knowhaddamean?
I knew about this plan but was less than impressed with it. Diesel engines get good fuel economy, if I'm a pickup buyer. It's about as exciting as their plan to implement displacement on demand only on the 5.3L V8 optional engine in Trailblazer-clones when they have decent fuel economy already in the Inline-6 base engine.

GM can prove me wrong when it implements this Silverado hybrid tech for no additional charge on all mid to upper trim Suburbans, Yukons, Tahoes and the like. This would be great PR for GM, and with all of these "hybrids" running around it would steal thunder from Toyota.

Now perhaps GM doesn't have confidence in the reliability of its hybrid system and won't do that. If so, the engineers need to burn the midnight oil. Perhaps it is too costly. How about dropping 1000 bucks off of that insane 5000 dollar rebate?

As far as a dedicated hybrid goes, I think Lutz was right 2 or 3 years ago. But I think he also needs to wake up to the Honda Accord hybrids that will be out soon. The Accord is roomy and large - not huge - but a big step up from those tiny hybrid cars being sold only a couple of years back. And Lexus is doing a hybrid version of one of its SUVs soon, so Lutz's big vehicle argument falls flaccid.

It seems like Ford and GM are always a year away from releasing tech like this to the masses, while Honda and Toyota are able to put it out there almost immediately. Ford was supposed to have a hybrid Escape already, but that's still "in the works". Clearly GM and Ford are half-azzing their engineering attempts here.

I still admire GM's attempt at the EV1 electric car, but no one remembers it now, it seems. A few hybrid electric engine assist motors or whatever in a few Fleet pickups isn't impressing anyone. GM needs to get in this game full-bore and change its image, and fast.
 

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Originally posted by Ming@Jan 8 2004, 12:51 PM
I still admire GM's attempt at the EV1 electric car, but no one remembers it now, it seems. A few hybrid electric engine assist motors or whatever in a few Fleet pickups isn't impressing anyone. GM needs to get in this game full-bore and change its image, and fast.
Exactly-- GM was on top with the EV1-- They had it- they should have taken further steps to stay on top in the minds of green consumers.
 

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The problem with GM's approach here is that I'm cynical enough to think they're doing it purely so they can continue selling big trucks and SUVs within upcoming fuel economy requirements. Yes, getting another 7-8mpg out of a V8 is nice, but if you're going to do hybrid technology, you should embrace it across the entire product range, like Toyota is doing. Toyota has said before that by the end of the decade, all their vehicles will be available in hybrid form. IIRC, the new Mitsubishi Eclipse will have a hybrid available. GM has been slow to adopt radical engine design changes historically, and I really hope they realize that the gasoline engine is not going to be practical as the #1 power source for vehicles for too much longer. By 2050, I think pure gasoline vehicles will be as uncommon as hybrids were two years ago.

Ford and BMW are taking a different aproach and are developing internal combustion engines running off of hydrogen rather than gasoline. It's a unique way of handling the problem, and appeals more to me than a hybrid. How soon we see vehicles using this technology is really dependant upon when hydrogen filling stations become practical. The engine technology already exists, and is very much similar to existing gasoline engines.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Originally posted by Mr_Pringle+Jan 8 2004, 02:58 PM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Mr_Pringle @ Jan 8 2004, 02:58 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'><!--QuoteBegin-Ming@Jan 8 2004, 12:51 PM
I still admire GM's attempt at the EV1 electric car, but no one remembers it now, it seems.  A few hybrid electric engine assist motors or whatever in a few Fleet pickups isn't impressing anyone.  GM needs to get in this game full-bore and change its image, and fast.
Exactly-- GM was on top with the EV1-- They had it- they should have taken further steps to stay on top in the minds of green consumers.[/b][/quote]
What sucks is that GM never really got the credit they deserved for sticking their neck out with the EV-1. It was clearly going to be a money-loser from day one, and I suspect GM was counting on the good will of some of these folks who normally hate them to come to their senses and see that GM could be a force for good, and that the EV-1 could lead to serious breakthroughs in zero-emissions vehicles.

So, Toyota and Honda come out with their electric cars and their hybrids, and the tree-huggers cheered. What did GM get for the EV-1, a zero-emissions vehicle, (unlike low-emissions hybrids)?? More of the same Michael Moore anti-American anti-corporate BS!!

It's a PR fight that can't be won on the grounds of environmental concerns. I think it has to be won on the grounds of practical, technical innovation. That's all GM can do, and I think Lutz is properly positioning GM to try to win that way.
 

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Originally posted by coolcaddy@Jan 8 2004, 08:27 PM

What sucks is that GM never really got the credit they deserved for sticking their neck out with the EV-1. It was clearly going to be a money-loser from day one, and I suspect GM was counting on the good will of some of these folks who normally hate them to come to their senses and see that GM could be a force for good, and that the EV-1 could lead to serious breakthroughs in zero-emissions vehicles.

So, Toyota and Honda come out with their electric cars and their hybrids, and the tree-huggers cheered. What did GM get for the EV-1, a zero-emissions vehicle, (unlike low-emissions hybrids)?? More of the same Michael Moore anti-American anti-corporate BS!!
I disagree - GM got full points from the public for the EV1 program. It got as much press when launched as the hybrids do now. The problem was that GM never took advantage of that momentum. They literally gave their postion away to Toyota and Honda.

They even showed a hybrid version of the EV1 as it became clear that battery techology wasn't going to produce the desired range anytime soon. But no production versions of the technology were forthcoming.

While Toyota and Honda started small with hybrids, it's clear they plan to build a market and implement the technology in mass market cars. GM certainly had the engineering and marketing lead to have dominated in this sector with the experience it gained with the EV1. Perhaps the company's short terms problems (unfunded pensions, need for new product) meant that it simply didn't have the resources it needed to concentrate on what seemed like a low-priority opportunity.
 

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:(
If anything, GM has lost the PR for "environmentally friendly" cars. But why do people want a Prius? It's a very expensive car. it would probably cost about $10K w/o the hybrid system. People want the Prius becuase they want to help the environment? They want to make a statement about it? That's cool too.

Hybrids are very new technology. And practically speaking, GM has other issue in its lineup that to add a car to it. Sure, GM has them in their trucks by the end of teh year. That's fine.

But I think GM needs to get on this bandwagon and offer it in an ION as soon as possible. Who cares if the Ion will sell for $22K for a base hybrid? It's out there. Tout it as the replacement for the EV1. Only offer it in the SF Bay area and LA and NYC... in areas where fuel consumption/conservation are hot topics.

But still... I wouldn't mind waiting a few years while GM engineers perfect their own hybrid system and then launch it on a dozen vehicles simultaneously. THAT can be a PR boom right there.

Besides... hasn't GM said that Hydrogen is the fuel of the future??
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Originally posted by Tone@Jan 8 2004, 04:05 PM
I disagree - GM got full points from the public for the EV1 program. It got as much press when launched as the hybrids do now.
I don't remember it quite that way. All I remember is reading about what was wrong with it. "Doesn't go far enough!", "Too expensive!", etc. It isn't that these criticisms weren't valid; it's just that the shortcomings of the EV-1 became the news while the effort itself was given little attention.

I specifically remember an NPR interview where the host was discussing alternate forms of motive power for cars, and the interviewee kept talking about how wonderful her Prius was while slamming the domestics for doing nothing--NOTHING--to address environmental concerns.

Excuse me, "nothing"? This self-styled expert had never heard of the EV-1? This moron had never considered what a huge risk GM took in undertaking the EV-1 project and actually making a zero-emissions car available for sale? I was yelling at the radio and tried to call in to the station, but no dice.

And that wasn't an isolated incident. I remember many such discussions in print, on the radio, on TV, etc. The cards are stacked against GM when it comes to anything that has to do with gestures of good will and attempts to reach out to the anti-corporate left. Blame it on GM if you like--they're not blameless, historically speaking; but it's an undeniable fact, IMO.

The Insight and Prius licked the problem of distance atthe expense of some emissions, but these cars (in their initial form) remain otherwise small and relatively expensive. Just like the ZERO-emissions EV-1.

The current Insight offers about as much interior space as the EV-1 and cost about $22K. Funny, I only hear about what a wonderful company Honda is for offering the car at all.

Toyota has a truly good hybrid car that deserves praise, but they were egged on in the first place when every one had an orgasm over the first Prius. Had GM received the same favorable treatment for its more heroic effort, maybe they'd have some motivation to proceed more aggressively based on environmental concerns.

Since that isn't the case, the only way to address this threat is to steal the issue by changing the ground rules.
 

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Originally posted by coolcaddy@Jan 8 2004, 03:27 PM

So, Toyota and Honda come out with their electric cars and their hybrids, and the tree-huggers cheered. What did GM get for the EV-1, a zero-emissions vehicle, (unlike low-emissions hybrids)?? More of the same Michael Moore anti-American anti-corporate BS!!
Now that is very true.
EV-1 was revolutionary. And dammit, it was an awesome driving car too!!! Performed exactly like a regular car AND it had a Mercedes-like drive quality.

Just give GM some time. I'm sure there are a few engineers somewhere that will perfect the Hybrid system.
Remember... GM did exactly this with ABS and Traction Control. Those systems were previously available to high end, pricey cars. GM brought it down to the masses.
 

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<_<
Furthermore... These so called "environmental groups" knock Gm (and Ford and DCX) for not being "environmental." They see "big V8's and V6's" and see environemnt killers. Gas guzzlers. Etc etc etc.

What is the mpg on the Vette? 30 mpg. What is the mpg on the SRX? 30 mpg. It's not as if GM isn't doing something with these cars. They could still be at 15 mpg!
Also, what about Saab? Their EcoTec and EcoPower engines are extremely good. Not to mention emissions and engine management system. For the life of me, I can't think of the name of it. But it's a pretty damned good system.

It's not like GM isn't doing anything. Sure, they lose the PR battle now. But is the Prius really an ideal car for everyone? I mean.. I care for the environment, but I wouldn't want to drive a Prius! :(
 

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I understand the problem and it lies in PR. Honda and Toyota AREN'T that great for fuel economy, in fact they're pretty much exactly the same car-for-car, its just that Ford and GM sell 4million more V8s but still offer all the economy of Toyota & Honda.

Unfortunatly we need only look to Europe to see that perhaps the most viable and cost worthy technology is diesel. Even Honda finally broke down and has started developing one. Too bad Ford & GM can't figure out how to pull their world class european diesels into a G6 and get the media gushing over 45mpg for only $1000 more.
 

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What I'd like to see is the hybrid systems added to the existing engines like the Toyota Highlander Hybrid (shown at NAIAS) and the Lexus RX 400H.
Just last week I read Honda was doing the same thing with the Accord. 240hp V6 with the addition of the hybrid equals close to 270+ horsepower plus fuel economy gains.
Granted, using the hybrids on gas guzzlers like the Yukon, Suburban, Tahoe, etc is cool for greater precentage gains for overall fleet averages, but there are those of us out there that want the performance and economy gains.....having our cake and eating it too so to speak.

Has anyone heard of GM doing this type of thing at any conference??

Thanks.

Killer
 
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