Hybrid Vehicles: Worth a $31,000 Premium?

March 1st, 2010
Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

Hybrid: Worth a $31,000 premium?

The hybrid craze has become ridiculous.

I think the perception of hybrids in America is driving demand more than the actual practicality of them. Once the Toyota Prius came out and gas prices skyrocketed, the idea of a car that could get 40 mpg sounded like a good idea. America latched on to the “hybrid” term as a way to save on gas and has never looked back.

Other automakers have jumped into the fold and now offer hybrids, many of them priced at a hefty premium over their gas-only siblings. For an example of a $31,000 premium, read on!

First, let’s compare the Ford Fusion. A Fusion S trim that’s rated at 23 city/34 highway mpg goes for $19,695, while the hybrid version, which is rated at 41/36, is $27,270.

The Fusion Hybrid is no doubt a great car and comes with more bells and whistles than the base trim, but that $7,575 premium is just not worth it to me when looking at fuel efficiency alone.

For an even better example, we need to look in Germany. After all, the Europeans know a thing or two about the need for fuel-efficient cars, and it makes sense to get an idea of what automakers are offering there in terms of hybrids.

While looking through Volkswagen’s German website, I found the Touareg Hybrid on sale for, get this, 73,500 Euro (or $99,000), compared with the Touareg V6 TDI for 50,700 Euro ($68,000). I’ll do the math for you: The hybrid Touareg costs nearly 23,000 Euro ($31,000) more than the diesel-powered version.

Now don’t you think that if hybrid technology were a better solution than diesel, Volkswagen would make the hybrid Touareg more price competitive with the V6 TDI? Especially in its home country?

It kind of makes me wonder if automakers are just catering to the current hybrid infatuation in America and using it as an excuse to jack up prices when they know diesel makes a lot more sense.

I don’t blame the automakers – they will always do what they need to in order to make money. Right now, it’s selling hybrids in America. I just wonder if the American people will ever wake up and stop buying them.

What do you think: Are hybrid vehicles worth their premium prices? Is ethanol, diesel, or some other fuel a better solution?

-tgriffith

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  1. randy
    | #1

    Car manufacturers are doing what they do best: Raping their customers who want the latest fad or gimmick. They’ve always done this. Want cruise control? You’ve got to buy it with a $1500 package that often includes things you don’t want. Got to have antilock brakes? Pay though the nose for a “safety package”. It goes on and on. Hybrids add a lot of complexity, equipment and development costs, so the prices skyrocket even more. I don’t believe there’s a single hybrid on the market that can recoup the cost of the option for the typical driver. Given the current state of the economy, spending large amounts of money to save a few barrels of foreign oil isn’t an intelligent way to spend money for most Americans.

  2. | #2

    Another reason the automakers like making hybrids: The Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations. Automakers risk having to pay fines if the average fuel economy of the cars they produce is low. So adding hybrids to a carmaker’s product line can help save a small amount of money on every car they produce. Remember the Aston Martin Cygnet? Not exactly a car James Bond would use for a death-defying escape.

    http://www.cargurus.com/blog/2010/01/05/where-did-all-the-great-car-vids-go

  3. VitalStatistic63
    | #3

    A good article, and you raise some good points, but could someone please clarify something for me?

    “A Fusion S trim that’s rated at 23 city/34 highway mpg goes for $19,695, while the hybrid version, which is rated at 41/36, is $27,270.”

    These figures seem to indicate that the Hybrid Fusion gets better mileage in the city at 41, than on the highway at 36. I know Hybrids use regenerative braking to charge and then use that energy to accelerate and save fuel, thus greatly improving stop/start economy, but some energy has to be expended first to start the cycle off.

    Am I missing something here, or would Hybrid owners be better off on a highway trip, stopping every 200 meters or so to recharge their batteries?

  4. Danny
    | #4

    based on the example, the V6 TDI would be more economical than a Hybrid version. $31,000 premium is not well worth it when one needs to consider battery life and recycability. Not sure in the Touareg, in vehicles like sedan the battery eats up valuable cargo space and available payload when compared to diesel.

    I think many believe that diesel is dirty and has not realized the improved technology.

  5. | #5

    Ford Fusion hybrid is a similar size car to a Ford Mondeo but the diesel Mondeo uses a lot less fuel 50+mpg so why would anyone want a hybrid.

  6. | #6

    @VitalStatistic63
    I believe many hybrids get better mileage in the city than on the highway not only because of regenerative braking, but also because many hybrids can be driven by electricity alone at in-city speeds. Highway speeds, especially passing and merging, require gas-engine power, but I think many hybrids, including the Prius, rarely run the gas engine on city streets.

  7. Lori Stevens
    | #7

    I think what some forget is that one of the reasons we started the hybrid craze was not only to save money at the gas pump, but to not give it to countries that would just as happily decimate us as spend all our money. Ending dependency on a product that is limited in supply and controlled by a unstable part of the world, remember? I would rather give it to a car company that gives me better cleaner cars and has no agenda to kill us ‘infidels’.
    Some of us, (and not only the liberal hippies in the world)want to try to improve the air quality in the world. Not because of global warming, just because we feel it is the right thing to do. We could all take a lesson from the boy scouts who believe you should leave nothing but footsteps, and leave it cleaner than you found it. What a simple concept. Not everything should be about the bottom dollar.

  8. VitalStatistic63
    | #8

    Ok. Thanks Hollerin. That explains it.

    I guess it comes down to range, and already having your batteries precharged before the test then. A little misleading I think, on the part of the car companies. I suppose they have some standard charge level they start the test at, say 80%, which means they start the test with a range of say 200kms, or 200 takeoffs for free. They really should start the test with the batteries fully depleted for an accurate reading.

  9. | #9

    Choosing Hybrid cars over diesels just doesn’t make sense. Turbo diesels get almost as good gas mileage and cost quite a bit less. When manufacturers make the full leap to pure electric that will be much more compelling.

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