Green, Green, Greenbacks

Toyota Hybrid X

The J.D. Power and Associates forecast released today tells us something that isn’t much of a surprise: the hybrid-vehicle market in the US is hot and getting hotter. We talk a lot about hybrids and other green approaches to driving here at the CarGurus blog, but a couple of other press releases that arrived in my in-box around the same time as the Power projections made me realize that this stuff is getting to be big business.

AutoTrader Publishing, it seems, is launching a spinoff called AutoTrader Green–which, according to the press release, is going to be devoted to “fuel-efficient vehicles….including Alternative-Fuel Automobiles (AFAs) such as hybrids.” AutoTrader, as you may or may not remember, publishes classified and dealer advertising in magazine form; their line of publications, including TruckTrader, CorvetteTrader, and SuperRVTrader, is produced and distributed locally across the US. It’s a solid cash-spinner for Atlanta’s Cox Enterprises, too.

This is a watershed moment, I think. You can’t get much more mainstream than AutoTrader, after all. If a savvy company like Cox thinks that there are enough people bringing a green emphasis to their car-shopping that they can support an entire title…well, something big must be happening.

Something less groundbreaking, but still very interesting, is this week’s launch of Earthcars.com, a green car “one-stop shopping portal.” This seems like less of a departure, because a lot of the interest in hybrids, electrics, and other green cars has been driven by (and expressed on) the Internet. Sites like Greenercars.org and AutoblogGreen.com are all green, all the time; most of the other Internet car sites (us included) devote a lot of attention to the green sector, and environmental websites like Treehugger.com cover new developments in automotive technology.

But the thing that made me sure that the market momentum was squarely in the green zone was the announcement that Toyota was introducing a new, bargain-priced Prius. They still haven’t broken the $20,000 barrier yet (so close, though!) but the writing seems to be on the wall: with more competition in the hybrid market, prices are bound to drop further. Then it’ll be a whole new playing field for the green car segment.

So, who knows? Maybe there’s a Toyota Hybrid X in my future…well, I can dream, can’t I?

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