Chrysler takes aim at GM with hybrid SUV prices
Thursday, 19 June 2008

AP, DETROIT -- The market for hybrid full-size sport utility vehicles may be small, but Chrysler LLC is determined to get a piece of it, saying Tuesday that its new hybrids will be nearly $8,000 less than competitors from General Motors Corp.

Chrysler said its 2009 Dodge Durango hybrid will have a suggested retail price of $45,340 while its 2009 Chrysler Aspen hybrid will start at $45,570. A comparable four-wheel-drive version of the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid starts at $53,295, while the 2008 GMC Yukon hybrid starts at $52,855.

Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa said the hybrid Aspen will cost $3,550 more than a comparable model with a gas engine, while the Durango will cost $3,655 more. Hybrid buyers will be able to reduce that premium with a hybrid tax credit of $1,800, he said.

The Durango and Aspen are Chrysler's first entries into the hybrid market and will go on sale in August. Chrysler said the hybrid SUVs get up to 20 miles per gallon and improve fuel economy by 40 percent in city driving and up to 25 percent overall.

Chrysler's hybrid system was developed in a partnership with GM, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and BMW AG, and it's the same system that's in the GM SUVs. The system -- called a two-mode hybrid -- can operate in electric-only mode at low speeds or with a combination of the gas engine and electric assistance for more power at higher speeds. The electric motors are lighter than those in the single-mode systems used by Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co., making them more ideal for towing.

Sales of full-size vehicles have tumbled this year, the victim of high gas prices and growing consumer preference for smaller cars. But it's unclear if hybrid SUVs will lure some buyers back to the segment.

GM said earlier this month it sold 1,100 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon hybrids in the first five months of this year, or about 2 percent of its total Tahoe and Yukon sales.

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