Automobile manufacturers have not rushed to directly cater to consumers who factor environmental concerns into their decisions about which car to buy. But that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of “green” options in the automotive marketplace.
Fortunately for the Earth-friendly, there is a major area of overlap in the factors that make a car both less offensive environmentally, and more economically attractive. As gas prices rise consumers of all ecological stripes seek cars that are efficient with a gallon of gas. No matter what the intent of the buyer, a car that uses less gas creates fewer emissions and that helps the environment,
Of course several car companies have responded to the market outcry for fuel efficiency with hybrid cars but that technology currently requires an extra outlay of cash, somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000. That premium continues to test the resolve of tree huggers everywhere but our marketing research friends, J.D Power and Associates say that you can still be green, or certainly greener, without going hybrid.
A list of the top 30 environmentally friendly, 2006-model-year vehicles released by J.D. Power contains just 8 hybrids. Among the 22 other cars on the list are the more traditional internal combustion types such as the Acura RSX; Chevrolet Aveo and Cobalt; Ford Focus sedan and wagon; Honda Accord and Civic; Hyundai Accent and Elantra; Kia Rio and Spectra; Mazda 3 and MX-5 Miata; Nissan Sentra; Saturn Ion; Scion xA; Suzuki Reno; Toyota Camry and Corolla; and the Volkswagen Golf (now known as the Rabbit for 2007), Jetta and New Beetle.
Those 22 models represent 15 of the 37 brands sold in the United States and include Ford and Chevy. The American manufacturers didn’t do so well, however, on a similar list released by Yahoo. Their list of top “green cars,” which includes the 2007 model year, developed in consultation with Environmental Defense (what Yahoo describes as “a leading non-profit that finds practical ways to protect the planet,” includes just the 2007, and 2006 version of the Ford Escape (#9 and #15) as the only vehicles from American companies. The Escape is also the only SUV in the top 15 of Yahoo’s list.
The Honda Civic Hybrid CVT for 2006 and 2007 takes the top two positions on the list, offering 49/51 mpg with a navigation system for under $25,000.
The 2006 and 2007 models of the Toyota Prius, also a hybrid, holds down spots #3, and #4 offer 60/51 mpg at a little more than $1,000 less than Honda’s hybrid.
Hybrids are gaining acceptance and popularity, and attracting incentives every day. Kansas is currently considering offering a $2,500 state income tax credit to residents who purchase a hybrid vehicle. Two Kansas state legislators, Rep. Anthony Brown and Rep. Tom Hawk, a Republican and a Democrat, told the Kansas House Energy and Utilities Committee that the tax refund would prompt car manufacturers to increase production of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, and help clean the environment.
“This also would be a good way to curb our use of foreign oil,” Brown said.
Despite the lack of a national advertising campaign, many Toyota dealers across the country have waiting lists for their hybrid Prius that are up to a year long, and customers were paying several thousand dollars more than sticker price for the cars that did reach the floor.
Fueled by gasoline prices reaching towards $3 a gallon last fall, Toyota sold 106,971 Priuses in the U.S. last year and 280,000 worldwide. But the lack of available product and the drop in gas prices this winter slowed sales. As a result Toyota will launch its first national ad campaign for their hybrid in April as the manufacturer gears up to deliver as many as 170,000 cars in 2007.
Spots #5 and #6 are held by Honda’s Civic GX NVG which uses natural gas as fuel which burns cleaner than gas but offers just 28/39 mpg.
For the less adventurous among us, the first traditional gasoline-fueled cars come in at #10, #11, and #12 in the form of (respectively) the 2007 Toyota Yaris S, the 2007 Hyundai Elantra, and the 2007 Toyota Corolla.
Even if environmental concerns won’t fuel your next car purchase the pursuit of the tree-friendly automobile will pay dividends in 2007 for those looking for economical transportation. We are still a ways away from complete acceptance and availability of cars with hybrid technology however, so this year being as green as possible in your garage will still cost you more green from your pocket.
Yahoo’s Top 100 List of Green Cars for 2006-7: http://autos.yahoo.com/green_center-top100/
J.D. Power and Associates: http://www.jdpower.com