GM’s Hybrid Battery Story Called Into Question
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Unlike its competition, General Motors has not consistently reported hybrid sales—but based on numbers reported to HybridCars.com directly from the Saturn division throughout 2007, fewer than 9,000 GM mild hybrid vehicles have ever been sold. GM spokeman Tom Wilkinson told HybridCars.com that some of the 9,000 recalled vehicles were not yet sold, and remained on dealer lots. Wilkinson told Automotive News, “I don’t know how many hybrids we could have sold, but we would have had at least 9,000 more batteries for the pipeline.”
Toyota also experienced some teething problems when it released the redesigned Prius in 2004. A year later, several dozen drivers reported the vehicle stalling at highway speeds. In response, Toyota issued a service notice asking nearly 25,000 Prius owners to return vehicles for an hour-long software upgrade. Reports of the stalling problem subsided after the service.
GM is locked into Cobasys as a supplier for the mild hybrid models, at least through next year, because the batteries were custom-designed for the GM models. Earlier this year, GM expressed concern about the viability of Cobasys as the company was going through financial difficulties because one of its partners, Chevron, stopped funding its money-losing operations. The company has been up for sale, but has yet to find any takers.