Auto buyers are getting a “green light” to go green

NEWS FLASH: Green Cars are good!

In its Dec. 12 issue, Automotive News reports that many car buyers are now taking a closer look at the green car options on the market today. It may start with purchasing a “mild hybrid,” such as General Motors’ Buick LaCrosse eAssist, but it’s a step in the green direction for buyers who never would have considered purchasing a hybrid in the past.

Here’s the story:

Mild hybrids on the rise

           A couple in their 50s recently arrived at a Buick dealership in Chelsea, Mich., looking for an attractive sedan with decent fuel economy. They left in a LaCrosse with a four-cylinder engine teamed with General Motors’ new mild hybrid system.

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          The buyers were a far cry from the green types who do exhaustive research before plunking down money for a Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf. They were trading in a Buick and had never heard of GM’s system, dubbed “eAssist.”

          “We just explained that this is a new technology that allows a sizable car to get an extra 5 or 6 mpg in an inexpensive way,” says Lance Underwood, general sales manager at Chelsea Chevrolet-Buick.

          A mild hybrid uses a small electric motor that assists the gasoline engine but can’t propel the vehicle on its own. The technology has occupied a low-key spot along the spectrum of alternative powertrains. But that’s about to change.

          GM is the first automaker to introduce mild hybrids in a big way, adding the technology to high-volume models. This fall GM began selling it on the 2012 LaCrosse and Buick Regal. (The four-cylinder LaCrosse with eAssist, for example, gets 25 mpg in city driving and 36 on the highway compared with 19/30 mpg for the outgoing four-cylinder model.) It will be on the Eco version of the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu this spring.

          A few other automakers offer mild hybrid technology, sometimes called “light electrification,” though none is deploying it as aggressively as GM. Honda pioneered the technology in the late 1990s with the Insight before focusing more on full hybrids, though it still sells a mild hybrid: the new CR-Z coupe. BMW and Mercedes-Benz co-developed a mild hybrid system that both companies offer on their range-topping vehicles.

Automotive News

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