I agree with GM, hybrids won't be popular for at least 5 yrs.DETROIT (Reuters) - Never mind the fuel-sipping, gas-electric hybrid vehicles. Detroit wants to send power to the people.
Judging from last year's runaway success of the V-8-powered Chrysler 300C sedan and General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM - news) plans to roll out several high-performance models this year, Detroit's Big Three think Americans still want cars with big engines.
While Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corp. (news - web sites) (7203.T) and Honda Motor Co. (news - web sites) Ltd. (7267.T) have won the hearts of environmentalists with their hybrids, GM believes its V-8s will win over American wallets.
"Right now the drive for more and more power in cars is way larger than the drive for more and more hybrids," said GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, the top carmaker's long-time design guru.
To emphasize the point, GM on Monday will unveil at the Detroit auto show its fastest car ever -- the new Corvette Z06 -- as well as the Cadillac STS-V, powered by a supercharged V-8 engine that delivers the most horsepower of any Cadillac.
The world's largest automaker this year will also offer V-8 versions of its Chevrolet Impala sedan and Chevrolet Monte Carlo coupe, introduced at the Los Angeles auto show last week, and the Grand Prix sedan. GM also plans to add a V-8 to a large Buick sedan later this year, analysts said.
Hybrid sales in the United States are growing quickly. But with gasoline prices receding from record highs, roomy cars with big engines remain popular. On Sunday, a group of automotive critics named the Chrysler 300 the North American car of the year, a year after the Toyota Prius -- a gas-electric hybrid that gets up to 55 miles per gallon -- took the honors.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
This spring, Chrysler plans an even more powerful version of the car -- the 300C SRT8, beefed-up with a 6.1-liter, 425-horsepower V-8 engine.
"The hybrids have been getting a lot of publicity, but the fact is people still like power," Michael Omotoso, senior market analyst with Global Insight, said. "There's a market for both ends of the scale. Some people like the fuel economy, some people want the power of a V-8."
Even with the new cars coming to market, GM will have a difficult time holding its U.S. market share this year due to its aging lineup of pickup trucks and SUVs, analysts said.
The Cadillac STS-V, powered by a supercharged 4.6-liter V-8, will be one of only two GM cars subject to the U.S. gas-guzzler tax because of its relatively low gas mileage, GM officials said. The car, which will accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in a quick 5.8 seconds, will get less than 21 miles per gallon, making it subject to the tax of $1,000 or more.
But similar to the Chrysler 300C, the V-8 engines in GM's front-wheel drive Impala SS and the Monte Carlo SS will achieve better fuel economy with technology that shuts down some cylinders while the car is cruising and needs less power.
In the GM cars, the engine can seamlessly switch between using all eight cylinders or only four cylinders, improving fuel economy up to 12 percent, GM said.
Japan's high fuel prices and heavily congested roads have forced the Japanese automakers to become adapt at fuel-saving engines.
Toyota plans to nearly double the number of Prius sedans it sends to the United States this year to about 100,000 units to meet surging demand for hybrids, and offer hybrid versions of its Lexus RX 330 and Highlander sport utility vehicles.
But even Toyota and Honda promise that their new hybrids will offer superior power and performance.
Though GM is behind the Japanese in rolling out hybrids in cars, it has an advantage with V-8s, Lutz said.
Toyota only offers V-8s in three of its Lexus luxury cars. Honda doesn't have any V-8s, but has gained a reputation for fine-tuning its smaller engines for more power.
"In the Impala, we asked ourselves, what is it in a large mid-market sedan that we can easily do, that would be way more difficult for, say a Toyota Camry, or somebody like that to do," Lutz said. "We have the (V-8 engine), and they don't."