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One of the auto industry's more interesting experiments is getting a thumbs down from buyers of big, costly cars and SUVs.

Automakers are mostly pulling back from offering gas-saving hybrids in their otherwise most gas-thirsty vehicles. So few were being purchased that automakers are rethinking whether it's worth engineering and offering them.

The latest pullback comes from General Motors, which has dropped the hybrid versions for the new generation of its Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs.

Too few customers were interested in the Escalade version, even though the hybrid delivered 21 miles per gallon in a mix of city and highway driving, says David Schiavone, Escalade's marketing manager. That was up from a 16 combined rating for the non-hybrid, a 31% boost.

"No one bought them — and they were great," he says.

Likewise, Mercedes-Benz has pulled the plug on a hybrid version of its full-size S Class sedan because there were too few buyers. But spokesman Christian Bokich says the brand isn't giving up. A plug-in hybrid version of the redesigned S Class sedans will be offered next year. "The plug-in makes it a spicier product to consider," he says.

Lexus sold only nine hybrid models of its big LS sedan last month, only about 1% of the 706 LS sedans sold overall. The big issue is cost. The hybrid version can add $6,000 or more to the price of the LS, says Bill Kwong, a Lexus spokesman. By contrast, other Lexus models, where the added expense isn't as great, such as the ES midsize sedan, sell about one of four as hybrids.

Hybrids in luxury vehicles make "a very expensive car even more expensive," says John O'Dell, a senior editor for fuel efficiency and green car for Edmunds.com. "We're not at the point where people are lining up to say, 'I'll spend more money to save the environment or to cut oil use.' "

Some brands, however, are plowing forward. Infiniti is offering a hybrid version of its 2014 QX60, a full-size, three-row luxury SUV. About 10% of buyers are choosing the $3,000 option, says spokesman Kyle Bazemore. He says that's not just because of fuel economy, but because the hybrid feels just as powerful. "It's extremely similar in power to our V-6, but it gets four-cylinder fuel economy."

Putting hybrids in large vehicles was considered a great idea a few years ago because on a percentage basis, the fuel economy and oil savings were higher. Also, the vehicles are larger, so it's easier to accommodate the battery pack without losing a lot of people and cargo space. The hybrid Chevy Tahoe won the Green Car of the Year Award in 2008.

Ron Cogan, publisher of the Green Car Journal, which hands out the award, says he's "sad" to see the big hybrids going away, but he thinks automakers will have other gas-saving strategies for large vehicles that will make up the difference. "I'm less sad if they have a better approach," he says

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