Lutz: GM building hybrids for good press

General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said in an interview this week that GM doubts the benefits of hybrids, but must build them to improve its public image. "Hybrids are technologically of doubtful benefit, and expensive, but necessary from a political and public relations point of view," Lutz told Just-Auto. "Toyota has said, economically, hybrids make no sense. The reduction in fuel [consumption] does not pay for the technological content and cost of the vehicle so therefore economically it remains fairly nonsensical, so that's the left-brain analytical argument."

"The right brain is it's the popular thing to do, many people believe that if we all drove hybrids the world would suddenly get cooler again and then it's the patriotic thing to do because if you drive a hybrid you will no longer be funding the Arab terrorists, and so forth."

"So, with all those beliefs out there, you have to do a hybrid for public policy reasons."

"I don't care how much money you get out but when you've got two drivetrains, the sophisticated electronics and a big lithium-ion battery, you've got cost."

Lutz says diesels are also problematic. "The modern diesel is becoming more and more expensive as we have to have to gear up to meet Euro 5, which is very difficult."

"Let's not forget, a diesel engine is always going to be more expensive than a conventional petrol engine, that's the laws of physics."

In March, Lutz said GM is most enthusiastic about ethanol. "We think running the nation on E85 makes more sense than all the hybrids in the world," he said.