2010 Toyota Prius
A new survey released yesterday by research firm Harris Interactive says that most Americans think the US must become a leader in hybrid vehicles, and should support increased research into batteries to power cars of the future.
Specifically, 88 percent of more than 2,000 respondents want the US to lead in hybrid technology and 84 percent urge advances in batteries. But--and it's an important but--those same folks weren't willing to pay much for hybrids despite their benefits.
In fact, while more than 90 percent of them were "open to" considering hybrids for their next car, only a third (35%) would buy a hybrid even if it were priced the same as a conventional car.
Just 23% would be willing to pay more and, bizarrely, fully one-third would expect to pay less for a hybrid that also saved them money on gas.
Perceived drawbacks to hybrids included cost or lack of payback (80%), along with sacrifices in performance and lack of features. And over half the respondents didn't understand the distinctions among different types of hybrids.
As with any survey, it's important to look at who funded it. In this case, research for the report (Powering the U.S. Hybrid Vehicle Industry) was sponsored by Johnson Controls Inc., a large "Tier One" supplier to the global auto industry--and the world's largest maker of lead-acid starter batteries.
JCI also has a joint venture with French battery maker Saft, which builds lithium-ion cells in Nersac, France. Those are used in such mild hybrids as the upcoming Mercedes-Benz S 400 BlueHybrid and a version of the BMW 7 Series.
Without having the survey questions analyzed by a third party, it's impossible to say whether the survey was worded so as to elicit specific results.
But we have to say, the results it returned broadly agree with our sense of the market. US consumers want lots of good things, but they're often stingy when it comes to laying out actual cash to pay for them.
Ram Hybrid Spy Shot