I hope Chrysler enjoys the kudos over the next few weeks for its Aspen Hybrid full-size SUV. As Wheels writer Howard Elmer noted in his preview today, a 25 per cent reduction in fuel consumption is nothing to sneeze at.
But if the hybrid of Aspens isn't better received in the marketplace than its nearest rival, the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid I drove last fall, Chrysler's positive press clippings won't last very long.
Despite similar fuel economy savings over a comparable gas model using the same dual-mode hybrid system as the Aspen, with the Tahoe (and its GMC Yukon counterpart), General Motors has achieved what nobody in the industry would have thought possible a few months ago: create a hybrid that no one wants to buy.
By this past April, the General had only sold about 1,100 of its large hybrid SUVs in the U.S. since their introduction in January. That's well behind its goal of 12,000 sales a year, and a sliver of the more than 100,000 hybrids sold so far in the States this year. GM has even gone to the drastic measure of recently throwing on $4k worth of incentives.
Incentives? On a hybrid? Who would have thunk?
Compare those numbers to Toyota's Prius. It's selling at a 23 per cent higher pace than last year. Or compact cars as a segment. They're up 40 per cent.
U.S. customers have spoken: with gas at nearly $5 a gallon, they want fuel misers.
Hybrid or not, the
only sane primary reason anyone would buy a large, body-on-frame SUV like the Aspen or Tahoe these days is to
tow a bass boat/camper to the campsite/cottage. But with no end in
sight in the rise in gas prices—guess what?—trailers are being
unhitched and left at home as commuters save their gas money for essential driving, er, like maybe getting to work?
Add that any large SUV is basically a niche vehicle here in Canada anyway (about 1/10 the traditional uptake from our friends to the south) and even with its price advantage over the Tahoe and Yukon, it's hard to see why Chrysler will have any better success with its hybrid behemoth than GM.
[Sources: The Star, Automotive News]