“There have been significant market changes from the time we started to put hybrids in these vehicles until the time we decided to close the plant early.”
By Eddie Alterman
The New York Times
2008 Dodge Durango
The hybrid S.U.V.’s became available at dealerships in early October. But on Oct. 23, Chrysler announced that at the end of the year it would close the Delaware plant where they are built.
Production of the hybrid models began on Aug. 22. Even if production continues until Dec. 31, the Aspen and Durango hybrids are almost certainly the shortest-lived new models from a major manufacturer in modern times.
One of the shortest previous model runs was for the Lincoln Blackwood, a luxury pickup that failed to excite buyers in 2001-2.
A Chrysler spokesman, Ed Saenz, said last week that 400 of the hybrid S.U.V.’s had already been built; this suggests that total production may not exceed 800.
The Durango and Aspen hybrids, which are 2009 models, use the two-mode gas-electric powertrain that was jointly developed by General Motors, BMW and DaimlerChrysler.
G.M. was first to market with the technology and is now offering two-mode versions of the Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade; it also plans two-mode versions of the Saturn Vue crossover and full-size pickups.
Since Daimler and Chrysler have split, both parts have claimed the technology; Mercedes-Benz plans a two-mode S.U.V. called the ML450 BlueHybrid to go on sale in fall 2009.
The two-mode system packaged a suite of fuel-efficient technologies in one powertrain. Along with engine cylinders that shut down when not needed, there are two motor-generators in the transmission that provide electric propulsion when electronic sensors see fit.