Tesla made some serious waves last week when it debuted its Model 3 electric car. These weren’t your “gently lapping the shoreline” waves, either. Think “Laird Hamilton monstrous big-time waves.” We’re a data-driven, internet-focused company, so to demonstrate this point, we ran some basic Google searches. “Chevrolet Bolt” (the Model 3’s most direct competitor, and a car set to beat it to market by almost 2 years) returned 2.3 million results. “Nissan Leaf” (by and large the most popular electric car currently on sale) yields 4.9 million results. “Tesla Model 3?” 90.4 million results. So yeah… tidal waves.
Gas prices are low, hybrids have lost their luster, and competition is fierce for alternative-fuel cars. So now is a great time to introduce a hybrid, right?
There was a time when the Toyota Prius was the only option for buyers who wanted to advertise the fact that they love the environment. Celebrities and consumers alike proudly drove the efficient little soapboxes as a statement of being different.
Today things have changed, as relatively low gas prices and an influx of new hybrids, electrics, and diesels sit on dealer lots around the world while the Prius has lost favor among trendsetters.
Basically, the timing for an all-new Prius couldn’t be worse. You know who doesn’t care?
The all-new Prius.
In my book, many interesting conversations can be had using the words “turbochargers” and “superchargers.”
In a conversation with a friend this weekend, though, my mention of the words were met with a blank stare. I guess not everyone is into cars or even terribly knowledgeable about what makes them tick.
Our talk began with a question. My friend asked, “What do you think of electric cars?”
Well, that’s quite the can o’ worms in my world, and talking through the answer took the better part of the next 30 minutes. We discussed everything from the environmental impact of battery manufacturing to electricity production to supporting infrastructure to the mechanics of how superchargers and turbochargers work in gas and diesel engines. Of course, my bottom-line answer to her question was this: Electrics have the right idea in saving fuel, I’m just not convinced of their execution. I’d prefer to go with an economical turbo gas or diesel vehicle.
Like maybe the 2014 Ford Fiesta, with a 1.0-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder.
The jury is still out on the question of how serious Americans are about converting to smaller, greener cars. Still, there is some evidence that the market share for these vehicles is increasing.
In March, small car sales went up, as people reacted to rising gas prices. Honda was the only one of the majors whose sales dropped (by 5 percent). In April, demand for smaller cars went down: sales of the Cruze fell 5 percent; sales of the Fiesta, 44 percent.
One takeaway is that people are confused about what they want and need in an economy that is anything but reassuring and sends out ambiguous, even contradictory, signals.
But what about the real small stuff and the EV-hybrid bunch? We talked about Chrysler yesterday, and the company sold 336 percent more FIAT 500s (3,849 cars) than it did a year ago. Finally, Chrysler brought in new marketing blood.
Our man jgoods wrote a scathing piece on minivans last week. While I’m no fan of the people-movers either, I certainly see their benefit, especially considering that for the past three days I’ve been touring the country as part of a caravan consisting of one Dodge Caravan, one Chrysler Town & Country and my family’s SUV.
The ease of loading passengers and gear into the vans is almost enough for me to secretly wish I had one too, but then an epic blizzard in Wyoming brought me back to reality, and my AWD SUV was suddenly the best family car I’ve ever owned.
So while I won’t own a van, I hold nothing against them. My problem is with hybrids, vehicles I believe aren’t worth the gas that goes in ’em. And it seems I’m far from alone on this…