Do You Really Want One of These?

2010-PriusA lot of people do, it seems, and Toyota recently increased its production of the 2010 Prius to 500,000 a year, up 25 percent. There is real demand out there.

But, as I’ve said before, it’s not easy for a car enthusiast to like the Prius, even though we can applaud the intent. If we’re going to do the green thing, we want to drive a Tesla.

2010-prius-dashThe Prius is a car for the green do-gooders, for the tech-obsessed, for the socially conscious eco babies. Car and Driver said it was anything but exciting. “The excitement, we suppose, is in wearing your beliefs on your fender.” People who love cars will hate it. The first time I got into and drove one, a friend’s 2006, it seemed like I was in a movie. This is the feeling Jay Shoemaker expressed about the new car, adding:

I was still entombed in the resin chamber that passes for an automobile interior. If Ralph Nader had been an engineer, this is the car he would have designed, a vehicle for people who loathe automobiles.

And the barbs continue, as he knocks everything from ergonomics to handling and the over-reliance on gimmicks to drive up the price. Jalopnik liked the car better, but said it had decent road manners only with the optional 17-inch wheels.

We’re coming down to a media battle between the automotive press, mostly comprised of enthusiasts, against the practical, green, transport-oriented, global-warming crowd, who clearly outnumber the car-lovers. But the greenies should remember that their beloved Priuses and Insights are not really cars yet. They are transportation vehicles or, as Shoemaker called them, “personal vehicular transportation modules.” Which means, for most car lovers, that they’re still bureaucratic people-movers out of some futuristic movie.

Which side are you on: enthusiast or green? How can we bridge the gap?

—jgoods

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