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.”