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Death of the BMW X6 Hybrid – Do Luxury Hybrid Buyers Want Fuel Economy Too?

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If UCS‘s Hybrid Scorecard is any predictor of the future, then it was only a matter of time for the BMW X6 hybrid to meet its maker

Hybrids that don’t significantly boost fuel economy seem doomed to failure.

BMW X6 ActiveHybrid

Perhaps that is obvious, but automakers are still trying to sell them.

When we first put out the Hybrid Scorecard in 2010, we evaluated over 30 hybrids on the market at the time. The two hybrids with the worst environmental improvement score had disappeared from the market. Those vehicles were the 2009 Chevy Malibu hybrid and 2009 Saturn Aura hybrid (well actually Saturn disappeared altogether). These vehicles were marketed as hybrids and came with significant cost premiums, but delivered paltry fuel economy improvements.

2009 Chevy Malibu Hybrid

The BMW X6 Hybrid is no Chevy Malibu Hybrid. But they do share one thing in common, measly fuel economy improvements. The Malibu’s hybrid system, while being able to capture some braking energy, was underpowered with the bulk of its benefits coming from turning the car off at stop lights. A start-stop system makes a lot of sense – but calling it a hybrid and adding multiple thousands of dollars to the sticker price ain’t going to cut it.  And so the Malibu didn’t cut it either.

The X6 Hybrid took a different approach – turning a hybrid into an over-powered performance vehicle by amping up the horsepower. The result was a 480 horsepower vehicle with an 18 mpg fuel economy rating and a price tag of $88,900.

Luxury hybrid buyers want fuel economy too!

Comparing sales of the Scorecard’s top  luxury hybrid, the Lincoln MKZ to the lowest scoring BMW X6 sure seems to point in that direction at least. Through September, more than 20% of all MKZ sales were hybrids, compared to 1% for BMWs X6. Of course,  the more than $13,000 in forced features likely didn’t do much to help the X6 hybrid sales either.

GM seems to have learned from the demise of the 2009 Chevy Malibu Hybrid and has gone back to the drawing board with a completely redesigned 2013 Chevy Malibu ECO with eAssist (a real start-stop system). Hopefully BMW goes back to the drawing board as well and puts hybrid technology to work doing what it does best – getting more miles out of a gallon of gasoline.

Note: Sales data is for January through September 2011 from wardsauto.com

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About the author: Don Anair is a senior engineer with expertise on diesel, hybrid and battery electric vehicle, and goods movement technologies and the policies needed to turn them into real solutions for U.S. oil dependence, air pollution and global warming. He holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering. See Don's full bio.

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