For most of 2009 and 2010, it was a buyer’s market for hybrid cars. Gas prices and the economy were down, so Toyota and other dealers offering hybrids provided tried-and-true dealer incentives and customer perks to stimulate sales. The pendulum has swung in the other direction in 2011.
“We were discounting [hybrids] for a while, because they weren’t in demand,” said Anita Moyer, Sales Consultant, Las Cruces Toyota, in an interview with KRWG News in New Mexico. “Once they get in demand, we probably will not be discounting them. Gas prices go up and you can definitely see a trend in people trying to get rid of their lower mileage gas hogs.” She said that Priuses are traditionally the first cars “to fly off the lot.”
Len Crawford, of Rudolph Honda in El Paso, Tex., said he’s seen about a 10 percent spike in people trading in gas-guzzlers. “Hybrids will cost you a little bit more, but not much. But, the difference that you see in the gas prices definitely offsets that,” Crawford said, in a report from KTSM in El Paso, Tex.
While there are nearly 30 hybrid gas-electric vehicles now on the market, increased interest is focused on smaller, affordable hybrids from Toyota, Honda and Ford—rather than luxury and SUV hybrids which continue sell in relatively low numbers.
More Interest, Less Knowledge
Higher gas prices and increased interest in hybrids comes at a time when the industry is offering these fuel-efficient alternatives in greater numbers and with a greater array of technologies—from conventional hybrids to electric cars. This is creating confusion, according to a new survey from Synovate, a London-based market research firm.
Based on a survey of nearly 2,000 new car buyers, conducted between Oct. 22 and Nov. 2, 2010, there are many persistent misperceptions about green cars:
- Only two-thirds knew that hybrids use both gasoline and batteries
- Many respondent thought that all hybrid need to be plugged in
- Less than half of the buyers knew that plug-in hybrids (like the Chevy Volt or upcoming Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid) can run purely and electricity; and many didn’t know that plug-in hybrids also use gasoline.
Stephen Popiel, senior vice president of Synovate Motoresearch, said, “In the short term, dealers will have to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining the workings of plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles.”
So, just as dealers are becoming less generous with deals on the current generation of hybrid cars, they will need to become more generous with information about the next wave of greener electric-drive vehicles.