Gas prices may be down but the shift to small hybrid cars continues.
Toyota concept car. Photo by Paul Tan
The 2008 cars, on average (including of course hybrids and big trucks), reached a record 26.8 miles per gallon, according to Edmunds.com. That figure tells us two important trends: one, that Detroit and other manufacturers are finally getting the message that less is better, and two, that American consumers are decidedly moving in greater numbers to smaller, more efficient cars and trucks as their desire to save money on gas remains a strong priority. All this, despite the fact that gas prices have plummeted to almost half of their peak levels.
Small cars lead to smaller costs.
So the price of gasoline has since fallen considerably — less than $2.50 in my neck of the woods in south Texas — igniting fears that some people will reverse course and buy the big guzzlers which have also collapsed in price. I, for one, cannot imagine that American consumers would go back to the wasteful days, knowing full well that the drop is temporary. Ten years ago, $2.50 a gallon would have seemed criminal to the average driver, while today it looks downright like a great bargain; oh how times and perspectives change!
Get ready for cheaper hybrids!
A recent study, again on Edmunds.com, indicates that hybrids will tumble in price as demand grows, following the rules of increased volumes which translate into lower production costs. The same study says the following: Honda Motor Co. has said that it has managed to engineer a less-costly version of its Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system that will enable it to price a new 5-passenger hybrid, the 2009 Insight hybrid due out next year, at about $19,700, almost $3,250 less than Toyota’s Prius, the top-selling hybrid in the world.
Well this is very good news for us consumers who are waiting for hybrids to drop below $20,000. It is of course bad news for Saudi Arabia and Venezuela among other unfriendly oil producers, who will see their income from oil drop precipitously over the next 10 years (too bad, Hugo Chavez).
A quick check shows that the cheapest hybrids as of this month are:
- Toyota Prius, starting at $21,100
- Honda Civic Hybrid, starting at $22,600
- Saturn Aura Green Line, starting at $22,790
Toyota concept car. Photo by Paul Tan
Should we buy these small hybrid cars?
One of the biggest complaints that consumers have had over hybrid cars is the fact that their prices are typically out of reach; but with the recent price drops, their price tags are clearly going to be much less of an issue. So the question remains: is it worth the switch? My answer: But of course — there are gas savings and many other benefits to be had with the new hybrids! Especially if you’re thinking in terms of the impact of your choices upon our beautiful world and beloved environment.
But realize the caveats — these tiny cars may not be for everyone. Nevertheless, if you’re ready to buy a new car, and you are not a contractor, an avid fisherman or hunter, or even Joe the Plumber, you should seriously consider buying a hybrid. Gasoline has already shown us that it goes up in good times, and down in bad times. Even at $2.50, think of all the money you’ll save with a hybrid that gives you between 35 and 70 (yes, seventy) miles per gallon.
What are the choices?
So maybe you’ve settled on the idea of owning a hybrid car but aren’t too keen on what’s out there at the moment. Although you may be intrigued by smart cars or the Aptera, they may not necessarily suit your style for the long term. If so, then maybe you should hang on to your car budget and wait things out a little longer. I’m guessing that in a year or two, when the dust clears between the main manufacturers, you’ll have a wonderful choice of comfortable gas miser cars.
That’s enough to thumb your nose at all those expensive gas stations on your way to visit grandma at Thanksgiving!