GM Hybrid Trucks Promise Tax Credit, Big Boost in Fuel Efficiency

By dancurranjr On March 11th, 2009

silveradoGeneral Motors’ new full-size hybrid pickups are arriving at dealerships, offering a 25 percent increase in fuel economy over the base V-8 gasoline-only models and a 40 percent increase in city mileage.

Prices begin at $38,995, including freight, for the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Crew Cab two-wheel drive and $39,365 for the GMC Sierra Crew Cab two-wheel drive.

So far, these are the only hybrid pickups offered. GM said the trucks are eligible for a $2,200 federal tax credit for buyers who qualify. That could cut the cost of the hybrid drive-train to less than $1,000, GM said.

Unlike some higher-priced hybrids from Toyota’s Lexus brand, which emphasize performance over economy of operation, the GM hybrid pickups are all about better fuel economy.

In the Chevy and GMC models, official EPA ratings are 21 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg for highway for the two-wheel-drive versions, and 20 mpg city and highway for the four-wheel drives.

The city mileage for the two-wheel-drive models is the same as the EPA city ratings for the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry four-cylinder sedans with automatic transmissions.

But the GM pickups are built for rough duty and cargo hauling. Both models have a 6,100-pound towing capacity with two-wheel drive, and 5,900 with four-wheel drive.

GM provided vehicles for testing by an invited group of automotive reporters at a national media ride-and-drive event in San Antonio.

They performed well in a variety of driving conditions, including routes through downtown and the outskirts of the city, and while towing boats and horse trailers.

Offered only in the crew-cab configuration, with four full-size doors and a back seat comfortable for three adults, the Silverado and Sierra hybrids began coming off the assembly line in January.

GM said it expects 5 percent to 10 percent of its pickup sales this year to be the hybrid models.

Although pickup sales have taken a huge hit over the past year as gasoline prices spiked and the economy tanked, the segment remains instrumental to GM and the U.S. auto industry, Gary White, GM’s North American vice president and vehicle line executive for full-size trucks, said during the San Antonio event.

“Recreational users of pickups are pretty much gone” as a result of last year’s high gas prices, White said. “That was about 20 percent of the market.”

Three-fourths of those casual truck users who left the market went into cars, White said, “which pretty much shows they didn’t really need trucks. The pickup market is now smaller, but still very important.”

Large pickup sales of about 1.5 million are expected even in this year’s down economy and weak auto sales, he said, and GM holds a 42 percent share of the market, compared with 32 percent for Ford and 15 percent for Chrysler’s Dodge brand.

“GM remains No. 1 in full-size pickup and SUV sales,” White said.

The base version of the Silverado hybrid has mostly the same standard equipment found on the regular Silverado’s 1LT model package.

Included in the base price are a heavy-duty towing package, locking rear differential, EZ Lift tailgate and lock, and 18-inch wheels. Other standard amenities include automatic climate control, steering wheel audio controls and Bluetooth phone connectivity.

An eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty covers the components of the hybrid drive system, which includes the electric motors and the computerized control module, as well as the battery pack, which sits under the rear seat.

Both vehicles come with the GM two-mode hybrid system, which includes a 6.0-liter V-8 gasoline engine, coupled with an electric drive motor that can move the vehicle on its own up to 30 mph, GM said.

SOURCE: Modesto Bee

Leave a Reply