In the race to get “greener,” automakers want to leave no vehicle behind.
Some of the largest pickups and sport utility vehicles will soon come in hybrid versions, as automakers bet that consumers want to save fuel without compromising capability.
Chrysler LLC will show its first two hybrids — both SUVs — at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, while General Motors Corp. will unveil its hybrid Chevrolet Silverado pickup. Even the mammoth Cadillac Escalade is getting a hybrid option.
But with efficiency comes a price. Although specific numbers aren’t being released yet, the new hybrids will cost more than models with conventional engines. And industry analysts are wondering just how much demand there will be for the new power systems.
“Americans shouldn’t have to choose tiny little vehicles to get fuel efficiency. We ought to be able to offer a range of choice while still being sensitive to environmental impact,” Mark LaNeve, General Motors’ vice president of North America sales, service and marketing, said during a media preview last week in Detroit.
The big hybrids will be one story at the show, which is often a showcase for automakers’ greenest ideas. Honda Motor Co. will introduce a new hydrogen fuel-cell car that will be marketed to consumers next year, while GM is announcing plans to provide 10 fuel-cell vehicles to ferry customers around at Disneyland. Hyundai Motor Co. will show the QarmaQ concept car, which is made from recycled plastic bottles.
It’s unclear how much demand there is for full-size hybrids, said Mike Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates. Omotoso predicts about 10 percent of customers buying large SUVs would choose the hybrid option.
Overall, hybrid sales are expected to reach 300,000 this year, or about 2 percent of all U.S. sales, according to R.L. Polk and Co., an auto
information and marketing company.
“This is really new territory,” Omotoso said.