Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Biggest Technological Failure of This Decade

Each on their own the engineering teams of BMW, Chrysler, General Motor and Mercedes have produced some amazing products over the years. In a rare case of teamwork, cooperation and perhaps desperation the four diverse brands teamed up on the Dual Mode Hybrid System in a project called the Global Hybrid Partnership. The combined engineering synergy resulted in a much hyped hybrid powertrain too complex to explain yet one promising the world. As with many overhyped projects the Global Hybrid Partnership began to dissolve literally as soon as the first models hit dealerships and saw some of the brands sell fewer hybrids than Ferraris Enzos.

The Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen versions debuted in October of 2008 packing a Hemi V8 at a hard time for the auto industry in general and even more so for Chrysler in particular. Printing out the marketing materials for the Hemi hybrid probably took longer than the model's lifespan as the entire Durango/Aspen lineup including the Dual Mode Hybrid was canceled in November. Chrysler's former ally Mercedes didn't fare much better as Mercedes had no plans to carry the Dual Mode Hybrid into the current generation ML platform. The ML 450 hybrid thus only existed for two model years. BMW took by far the most performance oriented approach with its X6 Activehybrid to the tune of 480 combined horsepower and a nearly 90,000 starting price. The Activehybrid though wasn't any quicker than its regular twin turbo V8 counterpart and while it delivered a 20% fuel economy boost, it's a hard sell when that translates to 3 mpg. BMW dropped the Activehybrid after two model years just like Mercedes not even bothering to wait until the second generation X6. Without a doubt, General Motors achieved the most success with its full size SUV and pickup Dual Mode Hybrids. You can still occasionally spot one on the road with many still sporting their loud and proud hybrid stickers. In this group though sales success is akin to speaking the most Italian in Inglorious Bastards. General Motors like the others decided not to pursue the hybrid setup for its current generation of pickups and SUVs. With the introduction of the second generation BMW X6 the loop has closed on the Dual Mode Hybrid forever relegating it to transit bus duty.

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