Gm Suv Hybrids Given 40% Mileage Increase

By: Anthony Fontanelle

The General Motors Corp. said last Tuesday that it now expects 40 percent better fuel economy in city driving from the gasoline-electric hybrid versions of its full-size SUVs than their gasoline-only counterparts, giving the hybrid Chevrolet Tahoes and GMC Yukons 19 or 20 miles a gallon in stop-and-go driving, reported James Healey of USA Today.

The largest American automaker intends to heavily tout improvements in fuel economy for the new-generation Tahoe and Yukon. Highway mileage increased from 19 mpg to 21-22 with the addition of Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation. Additionally, both the old and new versions get 15 to 16 mpg in town.

The figure is up by 15 percent from what was previously announced. Moreover, the plan will significantly boost the mileage of sport utilities. Compared to a number of mid- and full-size sedans running on gasoline, the boost will be noteworthy. Additionally, the boost will make the SUV hybrids far better than the typical crossovers that use less fuel.

The Tahoe and the Yukon, set to arrive in showrooms this fall, will be the first full-size gasoline-electric hybrid sport utility vehicles. The so-called dual-mode hybrid system used in the vehicles was jointly developed with the Chrysler Group and BMW. The Auburn Hills- and Germany-based automakers intend to offer such technology in their lineup by next year. GM will offer it in 2008 on the Cadillac Escalade, then on the Chevy and GMC full-size pickups. Saturn product lines will get a version later.

GM replaced the Tahoe and Yukon on the new GMT900 platform in late 2005 as a 2007. A hybrid version of the Yukon, which uses the shared GM/DaimlerChrysler Advanced Hybrid System 2, is expected to follow with the 2008 models. The GMT900 based Tahoe and Yukon exceeded initial sales expectations and continues to sell well notwithstanding a waning market for huge SUVs.

For this year, Tahoe and Yukon hybrids receive an enhanced hood and front fascias. and Yukon hood blended to some cutting edge auto parts accessories. The vehicles boast their new monolithic grille and headlights. Tahoe's hood is highlighted a design attribute overhanging from its smooth contour. Meanwhile, Yukon features a smooth hood with two slight curves on both sides.

Both the new Yukon and Tahoe feature a more angular design that supposedly gives the vehicles a more upscale aura. The interior was appreciably redesigned as well. It features a new wooded trim dashboard with new chrome accented instrument controls. New door panels and seats were also added to the interior.

The GM SUVs are capable of towing up to 6,200 pounds, versus 8,200 pounds for gasoline-powered counterparts. And the hybrid SUVs will use a conventional four-wheel-drive system with low-range gears appropriate for low-speed challenges such as sand or mud.

"There's still an appetite for full-size SUVs, but gas prices have cooled things off," said Mark Cieslak, the chief engineer for GM's full-size trucks. Fuel prices, plus political and social strain for better mileage, have 'accelerated development' of fuel-saving technologies.

The automaker also said that it plans to build 10,000 of the hybrids this year, ambitious because there is no track record to show whether full-size SUV buyers will accept hybrids. For comparison, the Ford Motor Co. has sold about 11,000 Escape hybrid SUVs so far this year.

GM officials reiterated last Tuesday that the automaker will lose money on hybrids at first. The hybrid hardware adds $10,000 per truck to the cost - too much to simply tack onto the sticker price, wrote Healey. The Detroit automaker has not decided on prices yet. It expects to profit from the vehicles if strong sales pull down the cost of components, said Healey.

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