If people thought high gas prices spelled the demise for the large SUV and truck industry, they are sadly mistaken. Automotive curmudgeon Jerry Flint writes how the segment plays an important role in sustaining the domestic automakers financially and is the one in which they'll soon be unleashing their greatest advantage.

The advantage is the two-mode hybrid engine. Developed through a three-way collaboration between General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, and BMW, the engine not only provides up to a 25 percent increased fuel economy compared to a V-8, but provides additional power to haul large or heavy loads. Even better, two-mode hybrids have been optimized for highway as well as city driving. Hybrids by Ford, Honda, and Toyota are designed primarily for fuel economy especially in city driving. GM will probably roll out the new engine first in its large SUVs like the Suburban while Chrysler will install the engine in its Dodge Durango. BMW and Mercedes-Benz (the other half of DaimlerChrysler) are considering implementing the engine in their luxury vehicles.

Automakers who were not part of the two-mode hybrid development are looking at diesel technology in compensation. Diesel provides many similar benefits: high mileage and plenty of torque. U.S. environmental laws, though, have proven to be a real stumbling block.

Flint sees no clear winner between the two technologies or if there will be any competition at all: in one of his four scenarios, competitors may license the two-mode technology for their own use. Regardless what ultimately happens, he sees trucks and SUVs continuing to play a role in domestic automakers'  futures.

Related:
Hydrogen fuel cells are the wave of the future - just not the near future
GM, DaimlerChrysler, BMW debut new full hybrid system
Diesels may turn the heat up on hybrids
GM, Chrysler hybrid plans include two-mode system

[Source: Forbes]

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