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…
Even as the average national price of a gallon of gasoline sits at about $3.60, most American consumers are on my side of the argument.
According to a USA Today report, automakers are spending more than $50 billion to meet federal fuel economy guidelines of 35.5 mpg by 2016. Problem is, consumers aren’t yet buying enough of those fuel-efficient vehicles for automakers to successfully meet that goal.
To use clearer language:
Sales of hybrid vehicles slipped from 2.9 percent of all vehicle sales in 2009 to 2.4 percent in 2010, while sales of SUVs, light trucks, minivans and crossovers increased from 48 percent to 51 percent.
To make it even simpler:
Gas prices went up; sales of hybrids went down, and sales of light trucks went up.
There are 160 models on the market that get 30 mpg or more. Plug-in vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf now are available, as are 25 gasoline-electric hybrids. Even more are on the way as automakers rush to hit the most aggressive fuel-economy rules since the government began regulating efficiency in the 1970s.
Yet, even with significantly higher gas prices now, consumer acceptance of high-mileage technology has been lukewarm at best.
I assume that’s because Americans are smart and know that buying a hybrid won’t save them any money until hybrids cost the same as or less than their gas-powered counterparts. I’ve long believed that hybrid cars are the product of a fabricated market forced upon Americans as a path to independence from oil. The government created a goal of 35.5 miles per gallon, the automakers responded by building hybrids and EVs, but now consumers are becoming the roadblock since they won’t buy the newer higher-mileage vehicles.
There are only two ways to get people to buy hybrid vehicles: Make them as affordable as a base-model 4-cylinder, and/or peg the price of gas somewhere north of $7 per gallon.
Until at least one of those two things happen, Americans will keep their giant middle finger extended in the direction of hybrids while continuing to snap up minivans for comfortable hauls across this great nation.
Is there a magic number gas prices would have to reach in order for you to go hybrid?