Low Price for Low-Tech Aura Hybrid

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.

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  • Alex

    I do not understand why Gm does not invest more in cylinder deactivation. They have this feature in their titanic trucks and suvs o why not have this fuel saving feature in everyone of their cars. This could increases the MPG for the entire corporation by nearly 10%! This would do more to help the environment than all the hybrids made, combined. Ans this feature is practically free. It is nothing, but simple reprogramming of the computer.

  • Jerry

    The Aura may have a niche

    I drive 8 miles each commute, 4 highway then 4 stop and go

    I drove both the Camry hybrid and Nissan Altima both great cars on my route. Unfortunatly on both vehicles the initial 4 miles highway did not genrate enough power for the battery to do any electric only driving once I got to my stop and go section.

    Since I can get about 15% better mileage on my current car by accelerating smoother, the “light boost” as claimed by Saturn plus the engine shutdown could help reduce emissions and save fuel for a low mileage commuter.

    I think myself and other short commuters are plug-in candidates but they simply are not avaialbe.

  • Bill C.

    Why by a mild Aura when GM makes a 2.2 liter Ecotec Malibu that gets the same MPG as the hybrid Aura without the addition expense of the hybrid components. My 97 Saturn SW2 got 36 MPG highway and my 2004 Malibu is getting 34 mpg highway. The Aura’s hybrid is just a PR move by GM into making itself look green when it has other vehicles that can match the MPG level of the AURA without the hybrid parts. GM stop wasting time on these half baked kludges of technology and give us a car the size of the Aura/Malibu that will get 50 mpg or better.

  • Joe Welnack

    I could see GM or Ford being successful with a small diesel engine (GM could get this from Isuzu); (Ford from itself in England).

    Frankly, the finest economy will come from a ecodiesel such as VW’s that combine plug-in hybrid technology. In many states such as Florida, the economy standard would be astronomical if two solar panels were used for charging batteries.

    GM, Ford and Chrysler are at an impass. They collectively hate “not invented here”. Many of their executives are golf buddies of oil big shots. Many believe that once oil comes down the showrooms will spew huge SUV’s like the good ole’ days. With the right engine coupled with the proper plug in technology they could move the larger SUV’s again.

    No, the very survival of the American auto industry is in hybrid technology. I need a new pick-up truck. A diesel plug in hybrid from Ford Motor Company would be something they wouldn’t have to bribe me to buy.

    Our sacred Republic is at risk as a result of our adventures to secure oil. If we spent 33% of our Iraq folly on diesel/plug in hybrid technology we would be in a position to let the folks in the middle east sort out their own problems.

  • Tony

    I know the Vue is not the best hybrid technology but I find its ride and handling to be very good. The vehicle is plasticity but what do you expect for a vehicle of it’s size and price. I’m just happy GM is putting something out there.

    Why is everyone so focused on mileage anyways? I know Money but is that really why we need this technology? No it’s to lower emissions. Why doesn’t the CO2 output per mile of these vehicles hit the front page? If you really want good gas mileage cut off your catalytic converter. It feels like raising and MPG regs and lowering emission are a little at odds with one another, after all Ethanol gets lower MPG, is its use worst for the Environment then Petrol? And ever Diesel on Yahoo green cars get a low green rating. Of course that implies a green rating mean something. They don’t break its value down for a true analysis.

  • Collin Burnell

    I’m not sure whether to be supportive or critical of GM’s approach to Hybrid’s. They may be accurate in thinking a cheaper Hybrid may be a big seller to the less informed general public. The Aura has one thing going for it… It is a VERY handsome car. I think THAT will cause it’s success. I believe though that both GM and Nissan will soon understand that we ‘treehuggers’ are serious about Hybrids.

  • mandip parmar

    28 mpg in the city is 33% better than the 4 cyl accord or camrys which get 21 mpg in city (new epa numbers). That is not bad.
    Also, when you figure the $1300 tax credit the aura hybrid is around $21000. very comparable to the 4 cyl camry or accord.
    I think the aura does well in that comparison.

  • msparmar

    why is the aura credit 1300? it is the same system the vue had and that credit was 650.

  • ETM

    It gets a higher tax credit because it is a Sedan and not and SUV?