2008 Chevrolet Tahoe HybridEnlarge Photo
Industry observers have been saying GM's two-mode hybrid beasts of burden weren't selling that well, but the New York Times Autos section helped spell out the sales disaster; combined sales of the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade two-mode hybrids didn't even hit 5,700 units through November of '08.
GM has bet big and lost before, and therein lies the point - they bet big while the market was rapidly trending to small. Head on over to eBay, advises the Times, and there you can find a struggling GM dealer offering up one of these full-size hybrids for as little as $30,000. That's roughly $25,000 below invoice price for '08. Such prices are tantamount to a fire sale, and symptomatic of a company that is shedding entire divisions in the hopes of merely staying alive.
Not that the two-mode hybrid system is without merit. Quite the opposite; a joint-venture with Chrysler, BMW, and Mercedes, the system thus far seems a well-engineered approach to the gas/electric hybrid concept. Electric motors incorporated into the transmission are space efficient and dramatically reduce the amount of hydrocarbons needed to get these big, bulky behemoths moving from a dead stop. The GM two-mode hybrid SUVs enjoy city mpg nearly double that of their non-hybrid brethren. Alas, that's not saying much when you're talking about 11 mpg city in the case of the Escalade AWD.
Chrysler has already abandoned its two-mode adventure, having ceased production of the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen two-mode hybrid SUVs some time ago. BMW and Mercedes are soon to release luxury sedans using the same two-mode technology, allowing us to see if it's a better fit in that part of the market. And GM is pinning its hopes on smaller SUVs like the soon-to-be-released Saturn VUE hybrid, which also uses the two-mode system but promises to return highway mileage of up to 32 mpg.--Colin Mathews