GM takes two-way road on hybrids

Once the hybrid hype has worn off, General Motors is betting that buyers will still want one that gets the job done at a sensible cost.

Light vs. heavy
Light vs. heavy
General Motors' Chevrolet division introduced two new hybrid vehicles this year. They're very different from one other, yet each shows GM's overall hybrid strategy: match the technology to the need.

While most car companies put complex hybrid systems into small and mid-size cars and crossover SUVs, GM's first full-hybrid vehicle is a large SUV. The thinking is this: The vehicle that drinks the most gas needs the most help.

On the other end of the scale is the Chevrolet Malibu, a mid-size sedan. Where other car companies stuff a huge battery pack in the trunk with a big cost premium to match, GM keeps the cost and battery-size down by using a system that just helps a little. The result is a roughly 10% improvement in fuel economy at a low price.

There are challenges to this approach. The fuel-economy numbers alone aren't eye-popping. You have to look at the whole picture. GM has to convince customers that what they're losing in bragging rights, they're gaining in value.

Last updated February 18 2008: 9:29 AM ET

Two ways

Big vehicle

Big trim

Big savings

Light vehicle

Light touch

Light savings

Mid-sized pay-off
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