Home » Why Ford And GM Disagree On The Future Of Hybrids

Why Ford And GM Disagree On The Future Of Hybrids

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Who’d have thought that after all the hype battery electric vehicles have generated over the past decade, hybrids would be dominating the current news cycle? It turns out that adding a little electric assistance to normal cars can work out to be a whole lot cheaper than building dedicated EVs, yet still cut carbon emissions.

At the same time, views on the future of hybrids are divided. Some automakers believe partial electrification is here to stay, while others are of the opinion that it’s battery power or bust. Ford seems to be in the former camp and GM the latter.

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Plus, insight into the midsize sedan’s decline, action over allegations of child labor at a Hyundai supplier, and Renault partnering with a Chinese juggernaut on hybrid powertrain development. It’s all right here on The Morning Dump.

Ford and GM Have Different Perspectives On The Future Of Hybrids

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Neither Ford nor General Motors are strangers to electrification, but it seems like the automakers’ long-term plans for partial electrification are set to diverge. The Detroit Free Press reports that the two automakers have different views on hybrids, with Ford seeing the technology as more than just temporary.

“We should stop talking about it as transitional technology,” Farley said of hybrids at the Bernstein Annual Strategic Decisions Conference. “Many of our hybrids in the U.S. are now more profitable than their non-hybrid equivalent,” Farley added.

Plug-in hybrids, which include a small battery that can be used for shorter distances, may not be relevant in a few years, Farley said. However, extended-range hybrids are an important technology for the industry’s future, he said.

Farley appears to be talking about extended-range electric vehicles, like David’s i3s REX or the incoming Ram 1500 Ramcharger with its big battery pack and Pentastar V6 generator. Vehicles where the combustion engine doesn’t drive the wheels, but instead backs up the battery pack for longer trips and more energy-intensive use.

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At the same time, although General Motors will be bringing plug-in hybrids back to its North American lineup, CEO Mary Barra still seems to see hybrids as transitional technology, with the Detroit Free Press noting:

Barra said the Detroit automaker will have plug-in hybrids starting in 2027, in response to steeper regulatory requirements, but electric vehicles are where GM sees the market heading.

“It’s not the end game because it’s not zero emission,” Barra said of hybrids at the same conference. “We’re trying to be very smart about how we do that and how we deploy capital there,” she added.

Here’s the thing: In some segments, plug-in hybrids and extended-range electric vehicles will essentially need to be long-term solutions. Battery electric vehicles are simply too efficient to get decent range while towing, and without a breakthrough in battery technology, some form of combustion assistance simply makes sense for people who use their trucks as trucks.

It’s also worth noting that human beings are bold and optimistic, eager to latch onto extreme goals without a guaranteed plan of how to get there. Proposed 2035 bans on new combustion-powered cars are only a decade away, and while we’ll certainly make progress with infrastructure and BEV affordability in the next 10 years, whether or not we make enough progress is yet to be seen. There’s a chance either of these strategies could succeed in the long run, so let’s set a reminder in our calendars to check back in 2035 and see how things played out.

And Then There Were Five

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In 2010, American customers could choose between 20 different midsize sedan nameplates. Next year, that number will fall to five as the Subaru Legacy and Chevrolet Malibu bow out of the market, and while there’s a chance the remaining players will scoop up newly available market share, it’s no guarantee. As Automotive News reports:

The Automotive News Research & Data Center has tracked U.S. sales of every midsize sedan nameplate since 2009. As recently as 2012, midsize sedans commanded 16.7 percent of the U.S. market, or 2,424,213 vehicles. In 2023, share fell to 5.7 percent, or 884,949.

While 2023’s total midsize sedan sales are up slightly over 2022’s figures, market share is still down as crossovers continue to dominate everything. Besides, this has been a long time coming. Midsize sedan sales fell below 2009 numbers in 2018, and that should’ve been a sign considering how 2009 wasn’t the greatest year for car sales. America was still reeling from the Great Recession, and mainstream customers were tightening their belts rather than splashing out on new vehicles. In fact, 2009 saw the fewest new light vehicle sales since 1982, a mere 10.4 million in America.

Really, the decline of midsize sedans makes sense. Crossovers are incredibly convenient, get better fuel economy than ever, and have proven themselves more effective as family transportation. Raising kids sometimes involves transporting bulky stuff that just wouldn’t fit in a sedan, and there’s undeniable appeal in having one vehicle to do it all.

The Feds Are Suing Hyundai Over Those Child Labor Allegations

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Remember how Reuters reported in 2022 that a Hyundai supplier in Alabama was using child labor? Well, it seems like something’s finally happening on that front. Earlier this week, Reuters reported that the Department of Labor is taking Hyundai to court over allegations of child labor usage at a stamping supplier for the automaker’s Alabama plant.

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The Labor Department filing named three companies as defendants for employing a 13-year-old child: Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama LLC; SMART Alabama LLC, an auto parts company; and Best Practice Service LLC, a staffing firm.

The Department’s Wage and Hour Division found the child had worked up to 60 hours per week on a SMART assembly line operating machines that formed sheet metal into auto parts.

Needless to say, children shouldn’t be working in sheet metal stamping plants, and since SMART was a Hyundai subsidiary while this was allegedly going on, it makes sense that the automaker is named in the suit. While legal action of this sort usually ends in a settlement, let’s see how this one plays out.

Renault Teams Up With Geely For Hybrids

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The next few years will foster some interesting alliances between automakers, and here’s one people weren’t expecting: Renault is teaming up with Geely to build hybrid powertrains. You know, the Chinese firm that owns Volvo and Lotus. As Reuters reports:

“A combination of various powertrain technologies is necessary … to achieve a successful decarbonization in a world where more than half of vehicles produced are expected to still rely on combustion engines by 2040,” Renault and Geely said in a joint statement.

The venture, dubbed HORSE Powertrain, will be headquartered in London and will supply both the groups’ brands as well as third-party manufacturers.

Hang on — doesn’t the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance include at least two interesting hybrid systems? Well, yes, but the alliance doesn’t quite seem to work like that. Although some level of sharing is in effect, pride has always been a divisive part of this existing partnership. Will any of these new powertrains make it to America under the hoods of Nissans? That’s yet to be seen, but don’t count it out just yet.

What I’m Listening To While Writing TMD

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Fred Again… just dropped a new track with Anderson .Paak and CHIKA today, and yep, he’s done it again. Just a wonderfully vibey track perfect for dropping the top and savoring some warm weather. Funnily enough, I’ve ended up with last-minute evening plans involving Nakai-san of RWB fame and Patois, so at some point later today, I’ll be firing up the Boxster and likely putting this on the stereo.

The Big Question

How’s your charging situation at home? Do you already have a convenient NEMA outlet in your garage, are you in an underground car park with no way of charging, or are you somewhere in between?

(Photo credits: Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Hyundai, Renault)

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Bassracerx
Bassracerx
19 days ago

Hyundai is up to SOMETHING in Alabama. I’m a vendor and to get in the plant you have to have to give 5 days notice, a security member follows you around everywhere you go and they have a strict NO CELLPHONE Policy that we had to push back on because our techs need to be on the phone with our engineers to troubleshoot.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
19 days ago

> children shouldn’t be working in sheet metal stamping plants

Or better yet

> children shouldn’t be working

Then again, Alabama gon’ Alabama.

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
18 days ago

It was “60 hours per week” that made the sparse remains of my hair stand on end.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
17 days ago

Oh come now, if children aren’t doing productive things like stamping sheet metal, the devil will tempt them to smoke marijuana or study science in school.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
19 days ago

“How’s your charging situation at home? Do you already have a convenient NEMA outlet in your garage, are you in an underground car park with no way of charging, or are you somewhere in between?”

My charging situation is excellent.

A few days ago (as part of a larger electrical upgrade to my house) I got a NEMA 14-50 outlet installed on the exterior of my garage where I park my car in anticipation that my next car will be a BEV.

On top of that, there are a couple of Tesla supercharger stations not far from me at two different malls/plazas.

And my local Ikea (also not far) has free BEV charging.

Last edited 19 days ago by Manwich Sandwich
Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
20 days ago

I’m a suburban homeowner and luckily we have gas heat/stove so had capacity on our breaker panel for a 40 amp/220v circuit to be added for a level 2 charger.

Prior to owning we rented a house and had a Volt PHEV, and just the level 1 charger plugged into an exterior outlet was enough to recharge overnight, and if not the Volt could make up the difference with it’s gas motor.

So I kind of side with Ford, PHEVs are really a great option for many more scenarios than pure EVs, and if usedmostly on battery can recoup their carbon footprint much faster than a pure EV.

That said we do have 2 pure EVs and no hybrids, if I had it to do over again I wouldn’t have sold my Volt during Covid and then we’d have all 3, but 2020 was crazy times.

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