Feb. 26, 2007: Auto Week—Will Price Rule?
Summary: GM’s last hybrid attempt fell flat. The Saturn VUE Green Line was almost universally held in contempt for the low quality of its and fit and finish. The car’s NVH—noise, vibration, and harshness to automotive engineers—was unacceptable, sales were abysmal, and Saturn decided to discontinue its production in March.
“But a mild hybrid’s advantage is less weight and mechanical complexity and a much lower price. The hybrid Aura costs just $1,700 more than the gasoline model, making it the least expensive mid-sized hybrid sedan.
“The Aura goes on sale in early May with a sticker price of $22,695 and an EPA fuel economy rating of 28 mpg city and 35 on the highway. The fuel economy figures are the same as the Honda Accord Hybrid, which has a base price of $31,685. The Camry Hybrid has a base price of $26,820 and an EPA rating of 40 city/38 highway. All prices include shipping.”
Those EPA numbers are last year’s, by the way, because the Aura Hybrid will be introduced as a 2007 model. Using 2008 numbers, the Accord Hybrid (best known for its muscle, not its green credentials) is estimated at 24 mpg city and 32 highway, while the Camry Hybrid clocks 33 and 34 mpg, respectively. The EPA site has no listing for Aura Green Line, so it is impossible to tell whether it will retain the same fuel economy estimate as the Accord if it reaches production in 2008.
Can a low price lure buyers to a product that is clearly inferior? Hybrid-hankering consumers with $23k to spend might prefer the proven technology of a slightly smaller Civic Hybrid or a mid-size base model Prius hatchback. GM’s experience with the VUE Green Line would argue against sticker as the great equalizer.
But if a quality car can be delivered at a lower price, the Aura may just attract some interest.