Hybrid Cars in Berkeley and Beyond

July 28, 2007: Source – San Francisco Chronice

Toyota Prius

Back in January of this year, we made the point in our Hybrid Market Dashboard that the Detroit area is lacking in hybrids. In 2006, Detroit sat at the bottom of the list of major U.S. metropolitan areas, ranking 53rd out of 62 cities in hybrids per capita. This could explain the lack of hybrids from American car companies. It’s only logical that auto executives base their decision to launch a new vehicle on many factors, including the vehicles they see on their morning commutes and in their neighbors’ driveways.

In an opinion piece in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Arrol Gellner a Bay Area architect, takes the matter further. He warns:

The American auto industry will probably be at the tail end of the [hybrid] revolution, watching foreign competitors write the conventional car’s epitaph, thanks to the monumental stupidity, shortsightedness and greed of General Motors executives, who preferred to wallow in the lucrative SUV trough while foreign competitors did their homework. Maybe those GM folks should’ve gotten out of the boardroom now and then, and taken a drive around Berkeley.

Why Berkeley? Because Berkeley is teeming with hybrids, and according to Gellner, “As Berkeley goes, so—eventually—goes the nation.” He writes:

Opposing the Vietnam War, spearheading ecological concerns, mandating energy-efficient buildings, banning smoking in public places, demanding equal access for the disabled—these causes were all dismissed as "Berkeley radical thinking" in their time. Today, they’ve all long since been integrated into mainstream America. While some might still quibble with one or another of them, in retrospect, most of us would now regard these causes as honorable and thoroughly American.

A few crazy liberals driving in a hybrid bubble? Or an automotive revolution ready to sweep the country?

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