The idea of producing large, luxury-vehicle hybrids is turning into a "what were they thinking?" exercise in futility, USA Today reports. General Motors is discontinuing hybrid versions of the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs, while Mercedes-Benz and Toyota's Lexus division are doing the same with their S-Class hybrid and LS hybrid sedans, respectively. The culprit? Big price increases for fuel economy improvements that border on the unimpressive.

Granted, the Escalade hybrid gets 31 percent better fuel economy than the standard version, but that still maps out to a combined fuel-efficiency rating of just 21 miles per gallon. That can be seen as a worthwhile increase, if it didn't cost over $8,000 extra. The 2014 Escalade Hybrid, for example, starts at $74,425 while the non-hybrid can be had for $66,295. Meanwhile, the Lexus full-size hybrid costs $6,000 more than the regular version but only gets 1-2 mpg better combined fuel economy. The result of all these high costs? Low sales. Through April, GM sold 82 of its hybrid SUVs and pickups, down from 541 a year earlier. And the LS hybrid sales were in single-digit territory for April. That isn't stopping Lexus from promoting its hybrids as the right solution (with the wrong facts), though.

There are still automakers giving big hybrid vehicles a shot, though. Nissan's Infiniti division is selling a hybrid version of its QX60 and says an impressive 10 percent of QX60 buyers choose the hybrid, which costs just $3,000 more. Looks like money talks.


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  • 40 Comments
      David Murray
      • 7 Months Ago
      There are several problems with these hybrids. 1) They are already gas guzzlers. People who buy these types of cars typically don't care much about gas mileage in the first place. 2) They are very expensive. People who can afford these vehicles can probably afford the gas too. 3) Image - People who buy these cars are often looking to portray an image that is exactly the opposite of being green or efficient. 4) High premium - As already mentioned in the article. Any last vestige of hope for selling these would be to convince people it would save them money in the long run. But with an $8,000 premium, it won't.
      Actionable Mango
      • 7 Months Ago
      1. Hybrid package costs too much. 2. Gain is too small*. 3. Most buyers of huge SUVs are not inclined to worry about gas mileage, or they wouldn't be considering them in the first place. * Except for the Escalade... 31%, wow!
        Greg
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        Point 3 is incorrect. Forty-five percent of F150 buyers opt for V6s. Fuel saving tech sells very well in the full size truck market. There are very few people who don't care about saving money, so long as they don't have to give up capability.
          danfred311
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Greg
          That's like saying that some rapists sometimes show restraint. No private person buys an F150 as anything but a shrine to his stupidity.
          Actionable Mango
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Greg
          The last I checked, the F150 isn't an SUV and so it doesn't counter my Point 3 at all.
          Doug
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Greg
          The article is about SUVs, not work trucks.
      • 7 Months Ago
      This is probably a waste of time posting this here based on the comments I see but I'll try anyways. I'm assuming that most people here would rather not see anyone drive large suvs period, but let's set that aside for now and assume that they're going to anyways. If the hybrid version of the escalade gets 21mpg compared to 16 for the regular, and the option costs $8000, it would take about 142,000 miles to recover the cost at $3.80 / gallon. This seems like fairly normal mileage over about 10 years which would be a reasonable usage life for the vehicle. So basically cost wise you would break even. Fuel savings would be about 2100 gallons over this period. If everyone who drove an escalade would drive the hybrid version (I think about 200,000 per year are sold?) that would be about 420 millon gallons of fuel for one year of escalades sold over the course of 10 years of their usage. Again, I'm assuming people are going to buy large suvs either way. So why is saving this amount of fuel considered a bad thing?
        Joeviocoe
        • 7 Months Ago
        You are wrong! ;) You are not wasting your time here. I totally agree. People are going to drive the biggest they can... whether they have a big family, a boat, a construction business.... or not. Of course we prefer if folks properly size their ride to balance utility and efficiency... but we need to factor in people's emotional ties to the idea of 'bigger is better'. The way forward is NOT to convince people to conserve (environmentalists have been failing at that message for decades). But to accept humans for what we are... and trying to find a way around it. I personally think autonomous cars will eventually remove the 'emotion' behind driving big.... and make vehicles into dispassionate appliances. This will need to happen over generations. It won't change the minds of current drivers, but change the perceptions of children, as they grow into drivers. You've got the right idea... face the problems we have today, while preparing for the future.
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Joe, you read my mind but thankfully are much more articulate than I and was able to put it into words, thanks!
        RoyEMunson
        • 7 Months Ago
        Big SUVs clearly benefit from this technology the most... its just the buyer that's the problem. Women buy large vehicles for the false sense of security, and men buy them because they think it gives them more credible alpha status. There are few to none that use the space or extra utility.
        Actionable Mango
        • 7 Months Ago
        A lot of people who buy SUVs that are this expensive don't keep them for 10 years. The Escalade is mostly a status symbol. You need to buy a new one at least every 5 years to keep your cred.
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Actionable Mango
          I'm pretty sure they will continue to save gas for the life of the vehicle, not just the original purchaser.
      danfred311
      • 7 Months Ago
      You don't say. The douches who drive vehicles like that don't care about environmental and geopolitical impact? I'm shocked! Does that mean Jack Rickard was wrong to say car makers should have started electrifying large luxury cars? surely that cannot be. He's never wrong. Ridiculously oversized and wasteful vehicles such as this Escalade are fundamentally incompatible with electric drive as long as batteries are significant cost items. With a combustion engine it's easy enough to move the vehicle without great upfront cost so you just pay for the waste during the lifetime. But with batteries you pay for the bulk up front. And such a wasteful abomination need 50kWh to go anywhere and Tesla range might take over 150kWh. Jack Rickard has 70kWh in his and it goes around 150km on a charge. It's like starting an ethics committee with all republican politicians. It's not really a good start. Or a catholic daycare center :) Jack Rickard converted his Escalade to battery drive. Combined cost is something like 160k$ and that's apparently without any labor costs. And it hasn't been a smooth ride. And now it weighs 7777lbs. And you know what he told me justified the waste? he likes that when he takes his family to the restaurant, it comfortably seats 4. Not 5, not 7, but 4 was the number he stated. As if a Chevy Cruze doesn't comfortably seat 4. The simple and brutal fact is that people who buy such absurd poser vehicles are not pensive and considerate people. And that's why VIA motors will fail so spectacularly. Those are knuckledragger vehicles and those buyers just don't get it. They are just not going to pay triple the price for an electric version. Are you kidding me. Maybe some dumb fleet owners who are fooled by the novelty. But long run it will be just as monumentally stupid as Green Automotive/Liberty Electric (converted Landrovers at 250k$ a pop) and AMP's electric chevy equinox at double the price. Oddly enough neither of those models are offered for sale anymore. Granted, they made other very serious mistakes over than basing it on heavy wasteful vehicles but still. They based the conversions on off the shelf EV drivetrain components that had prototype pricing. Which still plagues the small volume component market.
        holophonic
        • 7 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        Your an angry elf. LOL But I have to agree.
          danfred311
          • 7 Months Ago
          @holophonic
          yes I am angry. it shouldn't be this hard for these car makers to understand the simplest and most obvious things I tell them. but I'd sooner get through to an effing baboon. but good that you agree. I don't know about Elf. Jury is still out whether those are real :)
        RoyEMunson
        • 7 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        LOL, I have a few conservative friends, they drive asininely large vehicles. For example, one of em had to take PTO time because he could not afford to make it to work until pay day. He makes 70k /yr and lives paycheck to paycheck... Hes a hardcore conservative. Another friend just bought a Porsche Cayenne, hardcore conservative. These guys work in cubicles, have no kids. Im more or less an independent, my wife and I drive EVs. Life is pretty damn good and we are actually building net worth, which is some kind of passing fad these days. *smugly pats self on back* Im no tree hugger either, my motivations for driving EVs lie in my hatred towards oil companies extorting money from and threatening tax payers. That and the fact that EVs are better than ICE rides in every way... aside from range of course.
          Greg
          • 7 Months Ago
          @RoyEMunson
          What does being financially stupid have to do with anecdotal accounts of conservatism? In conservative, drive a small car, and have more than enough money. I have friends who are liberal and conservative that can't balance a checkbook. It has nothing to do with traditional political categories.
          Tweaker
          • 7 Months Ago
          @RoyEMunson
          So you say you know 2 "conservatives" and they're all like that. You are an idiot.
          RoyEMunson
          • 7 Months Ago
          @RoyEMunson
          Perhaps I went off on a tangent with the financial stuff... What I was saying is that some conservatives think bigger is better, and some democrats tend to be hippies. Some, not all. Just my opinion.
          danfred311
          • 7 Months Ago
          @RoyEMunson
          That's similar to Jack Rickard. He's hardcore GOP dummy and everything is Obama's fault, never mind that Bush/Cheney spent a few trillion killing millions in wars based on obvious lies. It's Obama's fault. Not that I have much love for Obama but I know the GOP nitwits should look elsewhere for blame first. But Jack is so relatively intelligent that through all the GOP darkness he inexplicably indulges in his mind, he can't quite give the oil companies the pass that the GOP dark spirit asks of him. He sort of reluctantly understands that we are damaging our health and planet but he can only admit the geopolitics and economic argument to himself as his motive. The rest is way too nice for his comfort. Or the spirit that he has let entrain him. And part of that sick spirit is to drive ridiculously oversized vehicles. Some kind of spiritual cold trying to pose. Behold I send you out as sheep amidst the wolves.
      Technoir
      • 7 Months Ago
      $6000 for 1-2 mpg is a bit steep, but that doesn't mean people aren't interested...if prices reasonably.
      Tom Slater
      • 7 Months Ago
      It's a shame they are axing the big GM hybrids but if they can't price it under $8k, it makes sense to do so. That technology premium takes a long time to pay itself off and if the battery dies before ~150K, it's a purely environmental choice. Then again, the Prius family's return on investment happens around 150K miles, too, and they sell just fine. Yeah, I'd have to say it's just the wrong market for the tech coupled with a not-compelling financial argument. Bring the hybrids in at 2K over base and it'd sell, sure. Or maybe roll it into a RWD station wagon drivetrain (liberals like station wagons, right?) and sell it that way. The SUV crowd, and I'm part of it I guess (drive a Cherokee) isn't as worried about MPG. Hell, though. I'd *leap* at a vehicle that would do what my Jeep does and got 25 MPG. Maybe with a diesel...
      AddLightness
      • 7 Months Ago
      This is why the Model X is going to take off. A lot of people desire large high-riding vehicles that can do pretty much anything they need it to do. Also, the Escalade boasts a 31% efficiency gain in hybrid form with a $8,000 premium being asked from consumers that generally don't care all that much about the environment and can afford the gas.. and even if they did care you're only getting 21 mpg rather than 16 mpg.. which is same percentage difference between 52 mpg and 40 mpg (but appears much less). Even though consumers driving the Escalade will save over twice as much money as someone driving a prius instead of a focus, its harder to swallow the $8,000 price increase up front when you're "only" saving 5 mpg. These vehicles are so excessive I can't wait until they go away.
        danfred311
        • 7 Months Ago
        @AddLightness
        it will be interesting to see how well model X sells. it's an overlap of the wasters and the progressive. not a terribly compatible match. but tesla might just be mainstream enough for people to buy it because it's 'cool' without actually having a clearer reason
          Actionable Mango
          • 7 Months Ago
          @danfred311
          I'm surprised it has presold as well as it has. The mixture of two normal doors and two gullwing doors just seems awkward and unattractive to me.
        Greg
        • 7 Months Ago
        @AddLightness
        The problem isn't the vehicle, it's the price premium. Price it the same as any other drivetrain upgrade (around $2k more), and they'd be plenty popular. And considering how much gas would be saved by going from 16 to 21 mpg (for example), it'd be a boon to the environment, the trade deficit, and individuals' pocketbooks.
      GleninCA
      • 7 Months Ago
      Automakers might want to consider going to the all electric route eventually. It could help them in that it would greatly improve their efficiency at a time when they need to, and it would also lower their production costs as electric cars are much less expensive to make than hybrids.
      Koenigsegg
      • 7 Months Ago
      Never understood the point of these ridiculously oversized vehicles my smart car is actually too big for me lol
      Erik
      • 7 Months Ago
      diesels in large SUVs have taken off with better MPG than the V-8 counterpart.
        CoolWaters
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Erik
        Proving it's a "branding" issue. Where the gutless coward "Republican" doesn't want to buy a "liberal" hybrid. *****'s?
      19nomad56
      • 7 Months Ago
      Making massive blanket statements of the intelligence or courage of others based purely on their political point of views is narrow minded and hateful, and just makes you look ignorant instead. Of course this is the autoblog forums so I shouldn't be too surprised. I am conservative. I believe that people should be able to own guns. I believe in God and faith. I don't swear, drink, or smoke. I do play Halo with my son (guilty pleasure). I also teach science at a public school, including evolution, and I teach it well and thoroughly. I drive an X1 that gets great mileage. We bought a 2014 Mazda 3 that my wife drives and my daughter will take over when she's 16. It gets great gas mileage. We also have a 4x4 for the mountains and a '56 chevy with an LS1 for fun. My wife and I are both educators but through careful saving and investment our net worth is well over $1mil. Between us we have a two masters and a doctorate. So, coolwaters, dan, and roy, your stereotypes have exactly zero validity to me. I do not live paycheck to paycheck, believe everything I hear on Fox, or believe it is my right to use up whatever natural resources I can grab. Maybe you need to understand that political leanings are just one small part of most people's entirety, and that if we met for dinner you would find that I am not a sheep or a sissy at all. In fact, its possible we could even be friends.
        RoyEMunson
        • 7 Months Ago
        @19nomad56
        You know what, you are totally right. I was simply making some observations about the few people I know who drive big SUVs. This article has nothing to do with politics. ******* move on my part.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @19nomad56
        Well put, I agree with everything but the last statement.
        CoolWaters
        • 7 Months Ago
        @19nomad56
        The thing is, 19, by your very statements, Your Not a Republican. If you think for yourself, as you are doing with evolution, for example. You're not in the club. Thanks for joining our side, the thinker's side. We welcome you.
      CoolWaters
      • 7 Months Ago
      Republicans are sheep who can't do math or think for themselves. They typically need a right wing radio moron to tell them what to think. Therefore, buying a hybrid, which would be smart for many of them isn't going to happen. Because these Repub sissy girls don't have the guts.
        Actionable Mango
        • 7 Months Ago
        @CoolWaters
        As a moderate I can listen to and appreciate well-reasoned opinions on both sides. But CoolWaters, you are a party hack and your most of comments are just worthless insults.
        CoolWaters
        • 7 Months Ago
        @CoolWaters
        Just like Smart Guns. It only takes on moron, to turn the base into idiots, against a good idea. Because, of course Smart Guns are better then Dumb Guns. You can generate 7 bull **** arguments to attempt to stop their sale, but the reality is still there. Smart Guns are better for All Americans then Dumb Guns. ( Except for the NRA Criminal Gun Market. Smart guns would hurt the sale of guns to criminals. )
          DarylMc
          • 7 Months Ago
          @CoolWaters
          Way to go CoolWaters You lost me at "Smart Guns". It sounds just like the people who think they need an SUV just to stay safe on the roads.
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