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New Hybrid Scorecard Slams Carmakers For Loading On Luxury

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Angular Front Exterior View - 2010 Toyota Prius 5dr HB II (Natl)

Angular Front Exterior View - 2010 Toyota Prius 5dr HB II (Natl)

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It's long been known that hybrid buyers often choose them over luxury cars, and aren't buying them solely for the payback in gasoline savings.

But a new Hybrid Scorecard, launched by the Union of Concerned Scientists, slams carmakers for inflating their prices by loading luxury into fuel-efficient hybrids, putting them out of reach to less affluent buyers.

The Hybrid Scorecard is a guide to all 31 currently available hybrid vehicles from five carmakers: Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Honda, and Nissan. It includes ratings on different criteria and an explanation of UCS's methodology in calculating its scores.

Hybrid Scorecard data from Union of Concerned Scientists

Hybrid Scorecard data from Union of Concerned Scientists

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2008 Honda Civic Hybrid

2008 Honda Civic Hybrid

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“Hybrids don’t have to be luxury vehicles,” said UCS analyst Don Anair, who surpervises the guide. “They should be within the reach of all Americans."

"Car buyers shouldn’t be forced," he continued, "to buy high-end bells and whistles when fuel economy and reducing emissions are their top priority.” Such "unnecessary luxury features" include, according to UCS, not only DVD players and keyless entry systems but even leather interiors.

The top-scoring hybrid this year is the 2010 Toyota Prius, followed by a three-way tie among the 2010 Honda Civic Hybrid, the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, and its twin the 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid.

One reason the 2010 Prius outscored the second-place finishers is that it has fewer "forced features" (roughly $1,600 worth) than the Civic Hybrid and Fusion/Milan twins, which UCS says include $3,000 and $4,000 of unnecessary embellishments respectively.

Not surprisingly, the 2010 Lexus LS 600h L full-size luxury sedan hybrid is the "worst offender," with $17,000 of "forced features" over the base non-hybrid LS 460L model.

Automakers might argue that buyers' willingness to pay higher margins for added features offsets the cost of $3,000-plus for the hybrid hardware, improving the affordability of the overall package.

In the end, buyers will decide for themselves. In our view, the more information, the better.

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Comment (1)
  1. Amen! This is what I've been arguing all along. They say Toyota didn't make any money on the Prius for years until the sales numbers climbed high enough. So why make these hybrids and EVs out of the range of the average Joe? Give me an option to buy a modest sub compact that gets 50+ mpg and I'll buy it. Add features I don't want/need and it will be out of my desired price range. I buy base model vehicles with no power accessories. And guess what? There's a hell of a lot less to go wrong with it. Build something affordable and sales will be huge. Make a Lexus wannabe and give all the EV/hybrid haters fodder for their ignorant rants and continued dependence on foreign oil.
     
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