This is the note GM sent to us (see below) the weekend after we ran this story.
"GM is fully committed to developing technologies to help our customers around the world use energy more efficiently and reduce their dependence on petroleum. Customer needs, vehicle technologies, government regulations and business conditions continue to change and evolve, so GM periodically reviews the real-world customer benefits and financial viability of the technologies we are considering for our global and regional vehicle programs.
"As a result of these reviews, some technologies are pulled ahead, delayed or cancelled. This is a normal course of business.
"GM does not provide guidance on which technologies will be used in future vehicles."
We can't say this comes as a surprise. Reports are beginning to filter about the viability of a continued hybrid program for the new 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500.
According to GM Inside News, there had been some serious, early speculation that the new GM full-size trucks would have a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine and a more powerful electric motor and battery, but lately those outlets of information have dried up. GM Inside News also speculated that some of the technology may continue for models like the Cadillac Escalade but for the rest of the new platform lineup — SUVs and pickup trucks — the powertrain option has been canceled.
The V-8 pickups, more commonly called "mild hybrids" because of their relatively limited two-mode electric assist capabilities, seemed like a good solution when they first came equipped on previous-generation pickups and full-size SUVs. The system could run on full battery power or battery assist at lower speeds (Mode 1), yet it could also assist the powertrain at higher speeds (Mode 2). By using the V-8 as its main power supply, towing ratings and payload capacities remained high enough to accommodate many half-ton buyers.
Current EPA fuel economy ratings for the half-ton trucks (with the 6.0-liter V-8) were 20/23 mpg in the city/highway and 21 mpg combined.
We know that many dealers over the past several years have had trouble selling these vehicles because of the modest fuel economy benefits, but dealers were saddled with hefty additional sticker costs, too, sometimes in excess of $5,000. We also know that GM may not bring this new technology and powertrain option into the lineup at the beginning of the new truck, possibly waiting for a year or two before revealing a newer, more improved hybrid system.
The last time we spoke with GM representatives about the two-mode hybrids, they were very optimistic about the use of a new, in-house-built electric motor that would allow for better towing and overall power, as well as better fuel economy. But that seems to have stalled. Of course, we'll also suggest that better gas mileage could be achieved with a smaller trubo-diesel or turbocharged gas engine.
With the new trucks due out in the next six to 10 months, this is definitely late in the process to think about killing any advanced technology. We'll have to wait and see what the implications of this might be once we know for certain.