Hybrids & Electrics

Why Did the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid Fail So Hard?

In 2007, as public interest in hybrids was peaking, General Motors released a hybrid version of its Chevy Tahoe. While the hybrid SUV seemed promising and offered some impressive features, it turned out to be doomed from the start. Ultimately, GM admitted defeat, discontinuing the Tahoe Hybrid in 2013. Here’s what went wrong, according to Autotrader.

The reasoning behind the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid

In the early 2000s, hybrids like the Toyota Prius exploded in popularity. In order to adapt to this new market, GM took some of its least efficient vehicles — the Escalade, Yukon, and Tahoe — and converted them to hybrids. 

The Tahoe Hybrid combined two electric motors with a 6.0-liter V8, enabling it to shift back and forth between gas and electric. This brought the SUV’s gas mileage up from 16 miles per gallon to 21 miles per gallon, a striking improvement of nearly 30 percent.

So, what went wrong?

One of the biggest hindrances to the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid’s success was simply timing. It was released during a recession when many people were being careful with their money and were less willing to splurge on a hybrid SUV.

And make no mistake, the Tahoe Hybrid was a splurge. With a starting price of around $50,500, it was nearly $15,000 more expensive than a standard Tahoe LS. For many people, this was simply not the right time to spend extra money on a hybrid, especially given the fact that gas prices were falling rapidly.

Additionally, while the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid’s fuel economy was significantly better than the non-hybrid Tahoe, it was significantly worse than its hybrid competitors. In fact, most hybrids at the time got approximately 50 miles per gallon. 

The Tahoe’s steep price combined with its comparably unimpressive fuel economy meant that it didn’t hold much appeal for people interested in a hybrid vehicle. Ultimately, while it did have some impressive capabilities — such as a 6,200 pound towing capacity — it simply wasn’t able to capture enough public attention to survive.

Hybrid SUVs that succeeded

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Related: The Most Common Chevy Tahoe Complaints Are the Most Expensive

Although the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid was discontinued in 2013, Edmunds reports plenty of popular hybrid SUV options that are well worth looking into. Starting at $25,710, the 2020 Kia Niro is one of the more affordable hybrid SUVs available.

The Niro may not be the best choice for an SUV purist, as Edmunds states that its “low ground clearance makes it more of a tall hatchback.” However, it gets up to 50 miles per gallon, has excellent cargo space, and plenty of optional premium features.

For people who want a vehicle that truly looks like an SUV, the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid may be your best bet. It gets a fairly impressive 219 hp, making for a driving experience that feels much more typical for an SUV. And despite its power, the RAV4 Hybrid still gets a combined 40 miles per gallon.

Finally, if you’re looking for a luxury option, Edmunds lists the 2020 Lexus UX 250h as one of the best choices. Ideal for city drivers, the sporty UX 250h is comfortable, easy to park, and gets 42 miles per gallon combined. However, it’s worth noting that this SUV doesn’t offer a great deal of space for passengers or cargo. If you’re looking for something bigger, the 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 may be a better choice.

This just goes to show that there’s absolutely a market for hybrid SUVs, and there are a plethora of amazing options out there. Unfortunately for the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, a combination of bad timing and less-than-ideal gas mileage meant that it simply never stood a chance.