LA Times–Hybrid car sales hit a roadblock: public's disinterest

The Ford and Honda hybrids due out this month are among dozens planned for the coming years as automakers try to meet new fuel-efficiency standards and please politicians overseeing the industry’s multibillion-dollar bailout.

Unfortunately for the automakers, hybrids are a tough sell these days.

Americans have cut back on buying vehicles of all types as the economy continues its slide. But the slowdown has been particularly brutal for hybrids, which use electricity and gasoline as power sources. They were the industry’s darling just last summer, but sales have collapsed as consumers refuse to pay a premium for a fuel-efficient vehicle now that the average gallon of gasoline nationally has slipped below $2.

“When gas prices came down, the priority of buying a hybrid fell off quite quickly,” said Wes Brown, a partner at Los Angeles-based market research firm Iceology. “Yet even as consumer interest declined, the manufacturers have continued to pump them out.”

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Science & Technology

21 comments on “LA Times–Hybrid car sales hit a roadblock: public's disinterest

  1. teatime says:

    Another example of the short attention span America has, sigh. I was a kid in the ’70s and the memory of the gas rationing and lines at the stations still factor into my choice of cars. How is it that the average American family has grown smaller but the cars and homes have grown substantially bigger?

  2. Sick & Tired of Nuance says:

    Well, I didn’t buy a hybrid, but I am still driving my $12K Hyundai Elantra and get about 32mpg (35mpg if I drive carefully). I am coming up on only 60K miles, so it is still a baby. I will be looking to buy in about another 4-5 years. A hybrid had a 6 month waiting list and cost about 4 times as much. I get pretty good mileage and the money I saved by not buying a hybrid has paid for my gas entirely so far. In fact, even at $3 per gallon, the difference in price pays for over 5 and a half years of gas.

  3. elanor says:

    Hybrids aren’t really all that “green” when you look past the gas mileage — the stuff that goes into the batteries is pretty nasty from a strip mining and ore processing point of view.

  4. A Senior Priest says:

    Hybrids are a ripoff in all sorts of ways (as well as hypocritical) but the federal gasoline tax should be at least $3 higher anyway, to discourage promiscuous driving.

  5. Ron+ says:

    I guess I need to cut back on my promiscuous driving like to church and visiting parishoners and even going to work.
    I dont mean to sound snippy and I apologize should you #4 take it the wrong way but I think you might possibly define proper driving habits..I do love the ” promiscuous driving ” label though.

  6. libraryjim says:

    Higher gas prices hurt the poor and middle classes. They can’t afford to be picky about buying a better car, and often the higher gas prices cut into their ability to purchase basics like food and pay for utilities.

    Taxes are NOT the answer to everything.

    Once a realistic, affordable alternative is developed, people will buy it. Until then we have to live with our current reality.

    Jim E.

  7. rlw6 says:

    If you wish to pay higer tax’s just mail the check to the Treasury of the United States they will accept it. I don’t think I need to and you have no Idea if my or anyone elses driving is beneficial or hurtful. If you want to influence others demonstrate how to do it right and set the example.

  8. libraryjim says:

    Just one question: If we do manage to find an alternative and cut off all oil based products, what do we do with all the millions of gas powered cars, trucks and buses* on the road now? That is an economic, and environmental-disposal NIGHTMARE just waiting in the wings. What provision is going to be made for those who absolutely CANNOT afford to transition immediately? Mass transit will not be available then, just as it is not available now, so has anyone thought it out in these terms?

    *a.k.a., Hydro-carbon powered eco-vehicles.

  9. vulcanhammer says:

    My wife insisted on getting a hybrid for our recent vehicle purchase, figuring the petrol prices would rise again.

    Interesting point: it was used. Hybrids tend to lose their value more rapidly than conventional vehicles, which in turn tends to erase the premium for a used one. So, if one must have one, used, IMHO, is the way to go.

  10. robroy says:

    “I don’t think I need to and you have no Idea if my or anyone elses driving is beneficial or hurtful. ”

    Sorry, but your driving and mine is hurtful. It sends gazillions of dollars to the Wahhabis who then send a percentage to Osama bin Laden. Raising taxes (or cost) on gas HAS increased fuel economy. (Remember driving the Buicks with 13 mpg?) It clearly works. Now total petroleum consumption for cars and trucks is equal to average mpg times the total miles driven.

    There is an [url= ]interesting analysis[/url] on the “real price” of gas. There are many, many factors considered. One in particular:
    [blockquote] According to estimates by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), federal corporate income tax credits and deductions result in an effective income tax rate of 11 percent for the oil industry as compared to a non-oil industry average of18 percent.[/blockquote]

  11. RichardKew says:

    #9, I would disagree about hybrids not getting a good price when selling. When we moved to Britain in 2007 we sold two Honda hybrids at very competitive prices, and I drive a Honda hybrid here. The issue for me is as much about the environment as the price of buying and running the car. However, in UK there is an encouragement for low emission vehicles in the cost of road taxes. I pay just fifteen pounds a year, my wife’s little Renault is 125 pounds a year — and the bigger the emission the larger the tax.

  12. Br. Michael says:

    11, which is why taxes will never be simplified. Socialist (and, yes, I mean to include the United States) governments use tax rates to control behavior. It is worth remembering that taxes are more than simply raising revenue.

  13. vulcanhammer says:

    #11, your experience in 2007 may have been different because of the changes in petrol prices. People can be very short-sighted on this, and that means that prices for fuel efficient vehicles are as volatile as the price of oil.

    And, #12, on the subject of taxes, [url=]you may find this, from Lactantius, of interest[/url].

  14. billqs says:

    #10 your link is down, however, the main page of this group indicates they are Global Warming activists who in this current state of global cooling seem to be losing some clout as the “scientific consensus” about GW starts to crumble, and we realize that global warming precepts have never been put to an honest debate.

    My in-laws are liberal Democrats who claim to care much for the poor, yet fail to see how a large tax on gasoline would most severely impact the very people they claim to care the most about. Having grown up poor and worked my way up to mid-Middle class, perhaps I chafe at this attitude more than most, however, I can truthfully say that my Dad could not have raised the 5 of us on less than $20k a year had a European style confiscatory tax on gasoline been enacted. Public transist in our city is a joke.

    That being said… I am heartened about how those of us in the reasserter (conservative in religious matters) group cannot easily be pigeonholed into one political mode (conservative on all political matters.) It’s a diversity of opinion that I welcome and enriches us as we seek to assert traditional Anglican orthodoxy especially here in North America.

  15. billqs says:

    #10 I should add, I share your worry about our gasoline usage money going to our enemies- either Muslim extremists through our “friends” the Saudi Arabians, or our stated enemy, Venezuala. That is why I wish we had passed the Energy plan proposed by back in 2001-2002. By now we would have oil pumping from AMWAR, the 40 something boutique gasolines that our limited refineries must produce would have been reduced to 5.

    I’m not saying we could drill our way completely out of import oil dependence, however, any plan that simply wants to conserve our way out of energy dependence is also doomed to fail. We need a balance of both.

  16. Harvey says:

    Hats off you #3, Elanor!! Whoopee – You hit the nail right on the head. You know – it’s bad enough to have one lead cell battery in a car to start the engine, but to have an electric car full of batteries whose chemical components are just as deadly or moreso than those in a “normal” lead-acid cell makes even less sense.

  17. elanor says:

    Thanks, Harvey — that’s the fun of being a metallurgical engineer. You know where nickel and molybdenum come from (makes coal mining look pretty).

    Regarding taxes being used to control behavior, our wonderful CT state legislature recently proposed taxing paper and plastic shopping bags, I guess to get us all to use reusable totes. I wonder how many of them go grocery shopping?

    I’m all for renewable energy (wind, solar, tides, hydro, geothermal, even nuclear), anything that reduces our reliance on sending piles of cash to people who hate us. That wind farm they are planning off of Hyannisport is good for national security!

  18. robroy says:

    BillQS, I am no global warming groupee. I am open to the possibility that it might be true (or false). But if the GW groupees and I work towards energy independence – that’s great. Public transportation here is a joke, too. General Motors bought the trolleys and buses in California and shut them down to sell more cars and now we are bailing them out. We spend gazillions on roads. Can’t we allocate a reasonable percentage of those funds to build up the mass transport infrastructure?

  19. billqs says:

    Robroy, I didn’t mean to state that you were a “GW groupee”, as a matter of fact we tend to agree on issues probably 90+% of the time. I just think it’s instructive to research the source of statistics.

    I’m also in favor of better mass transportation and energy independence. I’m just not in favor of artificially inflating the cost of the energy (through taxes) that millions of lower middle class and working poor must use in order to get to work.

  20. libraryjim says:

    What happens when the Government is allowed to dictate car design to automobile manufacturers:

    Part I
    part II

  21. libraryjim says:

    blast it, those were the Russian language versions!

    Not the same, but an English language critique of Soviet cars