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GM pulls the plug on Buick plug-in hybrid

Consumer Reports News: August 24, 2009 05:23 PM

General Motors has again delayed its upcoming hybrid. Initially, it was slated to be a new full-hybrid version of the Saturn Vue, using a smaller, lighter version of the two-mode hybrid system. It was also originally supposed to be GM’s first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, potentially preceding the Chevrolet Volt by about a month.

When the company declared bankruptcy this summer, it abandoned its Saturn division and announced that the two-mode, plug-in Vue would become a Buick—a move that would delay its introduction by as much as a year. (Read: "Preview: Buick plug-in hybrid SUV.")

Now GM says the car was not well received in a preview of upcoming models. Consumers and media writers apparently told the company the car didn’t have “the premium characteristics customers have come to expect from Buick.”
Now the company says it will cancel the model, and apply the hybrid powertrain to another unspecified model.
Whenever, and whatever that is, we’re eager to sample it. We were impressed with the two-mode hybrid system when we tested it in the Chevrolet Tahoe in 2007. It boosted the Tahoe’s fuel economy by almost 36 percent. Unfortunately, we found basic Tahoe features and underpinnings uncompetitive with other full-sized SUVs.

Meanwhile, we like the Chevrolet Malibu. But when we tested the Malibu Hybrid, we were unimpressed with its rudimentary hybrid system; it yielded a mere 8 percent improvement in fuel economy over the basic four-cylinder Malibu—and none on the highway.

So, how will the new plug-in eventually measure up? We look forward to finding out, and before then, discovering what vehicle will receive the orphaned powertrain.

Eric Evarts

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