Hybrid interest grows as gas prices increase ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Hybrid interest grows as gas prices increase

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hybrid interest grows as gas prices increase

As gas prices soar, there is growing talk and general interest in alternative engine types, including hybrid cars.

Gas prices have increased for several reasons the past few weeks. The switchover from the additive called MBTE to ethanol and the normal hike due to the summer traveling season have combined to set new highs in gas prices in areas across the country.

But there is a lot of misinformation going around about hybrid sales increasing (1,2, and 3) and decreasing at the same time. It seems that most reporters would just like to make a surface examination and move on without exploring further.

It seems that most reporters feel the Prius sells well because of its distinctive look, but the other hybrids have not succeeded since their designs are so similar to those of their gas only counterparts. But what's really making a difference in sales is the reputation of the car maker and design of the hybrid car itself.

For instance, despite the increase in gas prices, performance hybrid sales have slipped in the past few months as consumers have shyed away from the extra cost without a gain in fuel economy. A Honda representative even suggested they may cut back on production of the Accord hybrid.

These performance hybrids have been losing ground to those hybrid cars developed for fuel economy, such as the Honda Civic and the Toyota Prius. Obviously, consumers are willing to pay extra for performance cars. But they do seem to be reluctant to spend more on hybrid performance.

For those who are looking for larger SUVs, but still want hybrid economy, the Toyota Highlander and the Lexus Rx400h have been the big winners so far. Not because they are that much better than the Ford Escape or Mercury Mariner, but because Toyota has a better reputation for quality than Ford does. And even though sales at Ford had slowed, sales of Ford hybrids have been increasing, especially in this past month, with the spike in gas prices.

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