GM Dealers Keen on Return of Plug-In Hybrids

General Motors auto retailers express confidence in automaker after a closed-door meeting.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

February 13, 2024

3 Min Read
GM returns to hybrids.General Motors

LAS VEGAS – General Motors explained its plans to reintroduce plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles to the U.S. market during a private meeting with dealers here.

The aim is to smooth the transition to an all-electric automotive world while complying with government emission mandates. 

Many dealers say existing EPA proposals come with a too-much-too-soon timetable. It would effectively require 60% EV sales by 2030. 

At the GM dealer franchise meeting, company executives “talked about hybrids and plug-ins,” dealer Donald Hicks tells WardsAuto following the closed-door session at this month’s National Automobile Dealers Assn. show here.  

“They’ve got the technology that they use in other places in the world (including Australia and China),” he says. “It will be pretty easy to bring it back here.” 

Some franchise meetings can get antagonistic if controversial issues are in the air. For example, at one contentious session years ago, a bloc of Buick dealers walked out en masse.  

But this year’s Chevrolet-Buick-GMC meeting went better than that, says Hicks, a member of NADA’s board of directors and head of Shortline Auto Group based in Aurora, CA, an organization that includes Buick and GMC franchises.    

“It was a very positive meeting,” Hicks says. “They have plans. They are reacting to the market, reacting to a little bit of pushback on pure EVs. But they believe EVs will be the end solution.” 

He adds that GM’s impending introduction of new hybrids and PHEVs to the U.S. market represents “a step or two” between now – when most vehicles sold are powered by internal-combustion engines – and the government mandates that will require automakers to eventually go all-in with battery-electric vehicles.   

GM sold the Chevrolet Volt PHEV car in the U.S. from 2010 to 2019, ending production because sales were soft (about 20,000 a year), consumer preferences shifted to SUVs and the company lost money on every unit made.   

At J.D. Power’s annual Auto Summit held in conjunction with the NADA Show, GM President Mark Reuss says the nation’s top-selling automaker likely will reoffer PHEVs at some point.  

But he’s no avid fan of them.    

“PHEVs are still two powertrains on one car,” he says, adding that “they are expensive to make.” On the plus side, “regulators treat PHEVs the same as EVs.”     

GM reportedly tells dealers at the franchise meeting that it intends to comply with government emission regulations, however they might change. NADA has urged regulators to slow down its all-electric timetable. 

“At the meeting, (GM executives) reports the company will be compliant,” Hicks says. “So, whatever that is – if the government changes one way or the other – they will comply.”  

That leaves wiggle room, then? 

“Well, wiggle room for the government, but none for the manufacturer,” Hicks says. “In being compliant, whatever the government says, that’s what they are going to do.” 

He adds: “But if everyone can get together and get the government to change this ramp they have us on, then that would be nice. Because otherwise it is going to be difficult.” 

The government wields power, but not as much as the market does, Hicks says. “The market is going to tell us what it will buy. The government can tell us what we have to build, but the market will tell us what we can sell. It’s that simple. Nobody is bigger than the market.” 

Fellow franchise meeting attendee Todd O’Reilly of Gjovik Chevrolet Buick GMC in Plano, IL, tells WardsAuto, post-session: “I’m more excited about the way GM’s going right now than in the past. I think they are going to address the EV problems that they have. They brought it up and I think they are going to keep their word.” 

O’Reilly agrees with Hicks that the industry’s forced march toward EVs should slow down. “It’s going to take a while, and we all have to find a way to get through it, and for people to realize batteries will work.” 

But overall, the meeting was positive, says his son, Ryan, who works at the Illinois dealership. “The mood was pretty upbeat, optimistic.” 










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