GM: Buick Plug-in Hybrid Is Pure Speculation

Auto industry publications are reporting that an upcoming Buick Crossover due out in 2011 will be the first application of GM’s two-mode plug-in hybrid system—technology that was originally intended for the Saturn Vue. “Those reports are pure speculation,” GM spokesperson, Dayna Hart, told Hybridcars.com. “There are plans to implement the system into a future vehicle, but the specific brand has not yet been decided.”

The future Buick crossover remains a strong candidate for the technology–on a list of candidates that includes Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC. The unnamed Buick CUV, as well as the all-new GMC Terrain, and Chevrolet Equinox all share the Saturn Vue’s Theta platform. This means the two-mode hybrid system could be installed into any of these vehicles without major technical modifications. Cost-effectiveness is obviously a concern considering that even minor changes to a system like this could cost between 50 and 150 million dollars.

Too Expensive to Abandon

Not utilizing the system at all would be embarrassing and costly for GM. The total tab for research and development of the two-mode hybrid system that was intended to go into the Saturn Vue Plug-in is reported to be in excess of $1.2 billion.

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The two-mode plug-in hybrid system is designed to maximize efficiency while providing solid on- and off-road performance. It utilizes a lithium ion battery that can be recharged by plugging into a household outlet.

GM killed plans for the Saturn Vue two-mode plug-in hybrid last year due to the company’s financial troubles. The car manufacturer has since struck a deal to sell the entire Saturn unit to Penske Automotive.

The new small to mid-size crossover from Buick was seen on CBS during an interview with GM’s design chief, Ed Welburn. Shown as a full-size clay model, the vehicle takes styling cues from Buick’s large crossover, the Enclave.

Two-mode hybrid versions of GM’s large SUVs—not plug-ins—have been suffering from lackluster sales.


  • Rob Looyen

    Why again did the government save G.M.? They still just don’t get it. The sales of big Hybrid SUVs are down? Really? Duh!! the idea of taking big gas guzzlers and turning them into big slightly less gas guzzlers is abhorrent to that segment of the population that would be customers of hybrids. Most hybrid, and would be hybrid owners aren’t looking only at saving money on gas; rather, are more interested in reducing their carbon foot print. We hate the SUV blight upon our highways and what they are doing to our planet. You would think that the popularity of the Prius would be a clue for GM.

  • Anonymous

    GM should be credited with improving on their hybrid technology but problems are continuing with how good their two-mode system really is. Pricing in the case of a 2008 Hybrid Chevrolet Tahoe $49,590 – $52,395 w/ 22/21 mpg a good gain in city mpgs but at what price? And in the case of the Hybrid Malibu (getting better in mpgs every year) the price is not much more than the regular model but a yawn in improved gas mileage compared to say a Hybrid Focus. Consumers don’t go for this type engineering but if say the two-mode Malibu hybrid got 36/40 mpgs for say 3-4k more than the regular Malibu, GM would not have the problem of temporarily dropping the 2-mode system. Also GM has slowly improved on their two-mode system which hardly creates year-to-year excitement over their hybrid products.

    Also Buick as a brand does not create hybrid excitement. I would make a Chevy model the plug-in vehicle since most would associate GM’s hybrids with Volt and the Chevy brand. That should be a no brainier and they should remember to simplify their brands and marketing.

  • Samie

    Opps that was me above…

    One final thought
    Price and mpgs have to improve a lot for this to work. If there is not much improvement to price and mpgs GM needs to make the decision to get rid of the two-mode system. In some ways the serial hybrid and the two mode systems compete against each other for resources and advancements. So in the short term the need to live out the heavy investment in the plug-in two mode may help recoup the r&d costs but in the long-run may actually hurt advancements to the serial hybrid. I hope GM understands this….

  • Collin Burnell

    I think it’s important to note that these are the scaled-down SUV’s, not the full sized units. I think this is a market worth Hybridizing.

  • Fred L.

    w.r.t the full size hybrid SUV’s.

    Only reason I didnt buy a hybrid durango was that it was too expensive and a bit larger than needed. The reason I am posting this is because there are NO 7/8 PASSENGER HYBRIDS OTHER THAN THESE 2MODE’RS FROM GM! Anyone realize exactly HOW many soccer moms are out there doing short hops that hybrids excel at?

  • Anonymous

    - Hybrid Silverado – can’t afford it
    - Hybrid Denali – can’t afford it
    - Hybrid Yukon – can’t afford it

    Com’on GM! Put your fuel saving technology into something that I can afford:
    - Acadia
    - your other best selling affordable models

    Economics 101 – appeal to the mass not the rich few.

  • Halo9X

    Speak for yourself. I drive a Prius for the gas mileage, however, one size does not fit all! Some people need a larger vehicle for various reasons. Even they would like to save on fuel. SUVs fill a need for several people and should be part of the solution. Same goes for pick-up trucks. Some people need to haul heavy and bulky loads and need to pull trailers. Here in Texas, we have need of both. My needs are filled with a Prius. Its called market choice. I don’t want you or the government telling anyone what kind of car to drive, that would be tyranny!!! It’s bad enough that the government has involved itself in the auto industry period. It’s wrong and unconstitutional!

  • thevgtech

    One vehicle segment that has been ignored for hybridization is minivans. There is no doubt that 7-8 passenger minivans get better mileage than full size suv’s, have similar cargo space and utility, and are cheaper to buy. That appeals to the many Little League parents (I refuse to use the S word) that don’t need to tow heavy loads or drive off road. Chrysler is supposed to be addressing this with gas-electric van of some manner. Toyota has a Japanese market Sienna that they absolutely refuse to bring to North America. Shame on Toyota for that.

  • Robcares

    Look, no one wants the government to tell them what to do or what Car/Truck/SUV to buy. The sad reality is that the (domestic in particular) car manufactures have spent a lot of money lobbying congress to stop new regulations. Had it not been for our government, we wouldn’t have safety glass, seat belts, air bags (which would be unnecessary if everyone wore their seat belts), higher gas mileage, and lower emissions, just to name a few improvements. Speaking of emissions, did you know that Trucks/SUVs with the exact same engine as a passenger car are allowed more emissions to aid in gas mileage improvements? So on mankind’s epitaph, we can proudly say that we refused to bow to the tyranny of our government to tell us what to do and were entitled to our planet killing motor cars and trucks. Clearly. there is a need for larger vehicles for some, but here in L.A. the free-ways and air are clogged with giant SUVs and their emissions, with one 95 pound soccer/little league mom in the cabin. We need to change, and I don’t care if it means raising the price of gas to $5.00+ a gallon or some sort of luxury/gas mileage tax to force people to change, because most won’t until we force them to. I wouldn’t care normally, but I have to share this planet with them and I would like it to remain habitable for my son. How is global climate change working out for you in Texas recently? Heat waves, tornadoes, and torrential rain? nice! it’s just the beginning. I’m okay with people proving somehow that they need giant gas guzzlers for work, but too many kids doesn’t cut it for me, the planet is already overcrowded enough, it’s irresponsible to have more than two or three children, unless they are adopted.