2005 Honda Accord HybridEnlarge Photo
2005-2007 Honda Accord Hybrid
Though we haven't been able to track down the ad, the Honda Accord Hybrid was reputedly marketed with the tagline, "Sips Gas. Hauls Ass."
It was, in other words, a performance hybrid--the only time Honda has fitted its Integrated Motor Assist mild-hybrid system to a 3.0-liter V-6 engine, rather than 1.5-liter (or smaller) fours.
The notion of a performance hybrid proved deeply confusing to the market, since the success of the second-generation Toyota Prius had firmly defined "hybrid" as "fuel-efficient."
After a burst of initial interest, sales of the Accord Hybrid waned significantly, and it was finally withdrawn after three model years and total sales of 28,500 cars.
Its gas mileage, at a combined 25 mpg, was about 20 percent better than the non-hybrid V-6 model's 21 mpg. But the mild-hybrid system didn't let the Accord Hybrid travel only on electric power, so that piece of the hybrid experience was lost.
Honda has made almost 1 million mild hybrids to date, all but the Accord Hybrid being high-mileage compacts or subcompacts.
The Accord Hybrid's role turns out to be serving as a case study of the fact that niche vehicles sometimes simply never find their market.
2007 Saturn Vue Green Line, 2008-2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid,
Finally, we come to three different hybrid models from GM's now-defunct Saturn brand.
Saturn Vue Green LineEnlarge Photo
The one-year 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line was the first vehicle to receive the mild-hybrid Belt-Alternator-Starter system, which GM proudly pointed out made it the highest-mileage sport-utility on the market for 2007--at a combined 26 mpg.
The BAS hybrid system restarted the 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine after the car came to a stop, added electric torque to the engine output, and acted as a generator to recharge the battery pack under braking.
But the system was rough, with shuddering when the engine switched on or the electric motor kicked in, which made the "Green Line" Saturns slightly unnerving to drive.
And a 2008 recall of the first 7,000 nickel-metal-hydride battery packs used in BAS-equipped cars probably sealed the system's fate, given the collapse of the auto market later that year and the subsequent bankruptcies and restructuring of GM (and also Chrysler) in the U.S.
Over a short three years, three Saturns were offered with the BAS system: the 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line compact crossover, its all-new replacement for 2008-2009--first called the Saturn Vue Green Line as well, then changed to Vue Hybrid--and also the 2008-2009 Saturn Aura Green Line sedan.
The same first-generation BAS system was also used in the 2008-2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid (see above).
With an orphaned brand, a recalled high-voltage battery pack, unpleasant driving characteristics, and gas mileage ratings not all that much better than non-hybrid variants, the hybrid Saturns had a rough row to hoe.
Sales of less than 10,000 over three model years testified to their lack of appeal--and we suspect the same may apply when they show up on used-car lots.