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.
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.