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GM dropping hybrid drivetrain option from truck lineup, SUVs could follow suit

With the rollout of the new Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, GM has confirmed that poor sales for each of its hybrid versions has led the company to drop the drivetrain option for 2014. Introduced in 2009, pickups with the Two-Mode Hybrid system set a record as the most fuel-efficient full-sized pickups in the world, at 21 combined mpg. The fuel economy figures were attractive, but both the Silverado and Sierra priced in at more than $40,000, and sales for last year totaled just 3,114 units, according to Green Car Reports. Sales for 2013 will likely be even worse, now that Chrysler’s Ram 1500 HFE has hit the market at $28,000, boasting fuel economy to match the GM hybrids.

This highlights a big drawback of hybrid systems in the pickup segment as fuel savings for bigger vehicles aren’t exactly stellar  All it took for Chrysler to match GM’s hybrid system was an advanced V6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission. For the 2014 models, GM is bringing out a whole new line of engine, two V8s and a V6, and it’s likely that the V6 will rival the Ram in both fuel economy and price. Several of GM’s SUV models are also due for a refresh toward the end of 2013, and it’s looking fairly likely that these will also drop their hybrid options in favor of cheaper means of achieving higher mpg ratings. If there is one exception, it will probably be the Escalade. The big Caddy hybrid has served as a way for those in the public spotlight to put forward a green image without having to switch to a smaller or less luxurious car. This bodes well for GM, as it’s a way to make sure that the Cadillac badge shows up at all the right parties, and so this model will probably evolve rather than get dumped.

Pickups are big, heavy and terribly un-aerodynamic, so building more fuel-efficient options is a major challenge for automakers trying to strike a balance between fuel economy, price, and usefulness. GM’s hybrids did some of these quite well, and they will probably try again with a different strategy in the future, but for now, they’re just building regular trucks.