Bob Lutz: Saturn Vue plug-in, Chevrolet Volt to be more expensive than originally thought

During the 2008 New York Auto Show, General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz addressed some of issue staring down the Detroit-based automaker's plug-in hybrid plans. While GM's plug-in hybrid vehicles might still be on track for a 2010 or 2011 launch, their prices will likely be much higher than originally anticipated.

General Motor's first true plug-in hybrid vehicle will be a version of its two-mode Saturn Vue hybrid, scheduled to launch sometime around the turn of the next decade. The Vue plug-in will use next-generation lithium-ion batteries which should allow the Vue to travel 40 miles on electric power and have an EPA rating of 60 mpg. But that technology will come at a staggering price not normally associated with the Saturn brand.

According to Lutz, "the two-mode hybrid system will add about $8,000 to $9,000 to the price of the Vue, with the plug-in technology adding another $8,000 to $9,000 on top of the cost of the hybrid system." When all costs are tallied, Lutz says the Saturn Vue will list "for about $48,000" -- which is $1,000 more than the cost of a base model Corvette.

With a price point more in line with Cadillac rather than Saturn, look for sales of the plug-in Vue to be extremely limited in its first few years of production.

But the Vue plug-in isn't the only GM hybrid vehicle facing higher-than-expected prices. The Chevrolet Volt will be much more expensive than originally planned when it launches in November 2010. "I gave up on $30,000, but I haven't given up on $40,000," Lutz said. Lutz cited higher-than-expected battery prices for pushing the Volt's price up by $10,000.

However, Lutz is still optimistic that consumers could still see a price closer to $30,000. "GM will see $40,000, but it's possible that the consumer could see a price closer to $30,000," thanks to government incentives.

But when it comes down to it, GM is more concerned about getting the Volt to market on time, rather than its price. "We're not worried about [price], we just want to get it to market," Lutz said in closing.