General Motors is getting some bad news about its eAssist mild hybrid technology – it's not very popular. That's being made clear by soft sales for the highest-volume eAssist model, the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco.
The Malibu Eco does offer noteworthy technology perks: 2.4L four-cylinder engine, stop-start, regenerative braking, a lithium ion battery and a small electric motor that kicks in under certain conditions. The problem is that the Malibu Eco costs about $3,000 more than its non-hybrid counterpart but gets only three miles per gallon more. The Malibu Eco gets 25 city and 37 highway, compared to 22/34 for the Malibu 2.5L model.
GM had forecasted that Malibu Eco would snag 10 percent of all Malibu sales, but so far it's only made up eight percent. Chevrolet dealers are noticing – surprise – that car shoppers prefer to pay less for the almost-as-efficient regular Malibu. "You've got the base LS model sitting next to it that's just as nice and luxurious," Jeff Tuckman, inventory manager at Castle Chevrolet in suburban Chicago, told Automotive News.
This sales problem has been persisting for a while. Last summer, Chevrolet dealer lots were filling up with 2013 Malibu Eco models. With incentives, the regular Malibu was costing consumer about $6,000 less and was selling very well. There's another competitor that could be hurting the Malibu Eco, too: the Nissan Altima and its 2.5L engine gets 27/38 mpg and costs nearly $4,000 less than the Malibu Eco.
General Motors has said it wants to sell 500,000 electrified vehicles by 2017, including many mild hybrids with eAssist. Despite the Malibu Eco's low sales, GM will likely add eAssist to much of its lineup in the next few years on its hopeful way to 500,000.