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Hybrids – Do People Understand Them?

VehicleVoice ( panelists responded to a survey concerning what people really understand about Hybrid-powered vehicles. The conjecture has been that folks are really pumped about Hybrids because of the Toyota Prius and the outstanding public relations and advertising job being done by Toyota but that they don’t understand what a Hybrid is.
In research projects conducted by VehicleVoice partner AutoPacific, people say that they want a hybrid, but clearly they have not known why. Hybrids are the newest, coolest auto technology and they want it. When forced to do the arithmetic, it finally dawns on them that it will take years for a Hybrid to pay for itself in terms of fuel cost savings (since the Hybrid cost is appreciably more, you have to save a lot on gasoline to make the arithmetic work). Of course, in some places you can now drive a Hybrid in a HOV/carpool lane with only one person in the car.
VehicleVoice Panelists Weigh In With their Opinions on Hybrids
The VehicleVoice survey asked the panelists to compare gasoline engines, diesel engines and Hybrids in eleven categories. Hybrids were perceived to be “best for the environment”, “most technologically advanced”, “gets best fuel economy”, “most expensive to buy” and “has the most positive image”.

The weakest perceptions from the panelists were that Hybrids “have the best power and acceleration”, “is the most durable”, “is the most reliable”, “is the most fun to drive”. So, while Hybrids have a very positive image, the panelists are still wary about the reliability and durability of Hybrids.

VehicleVoice Panelists Still Have Strong Positive Perceptions of Gasoline-Powered Vehicles

Vehicles powered by Gasoline Engines are perceived to “have the best power and acceleration”, “be the most fun to drive”, “have the best resale value”, “be the most reliable”, and “be the most expensive to operate”. Clearly, the days of the gasoline-powered vehicles will continue long into the future given the perceptions about power/acceleration, fun to drive and resale value.
Diesels Continue to Disappoint
The panelists’ perceptions of diesels are weak. The only area where the perception of a diesel is higher than for gasoline or Hybrids is in “durability”. Americans have not had the opportunity to experience modern European-style diesels and still perceive them to be the unreliable smokers from GM’s fleet in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Turning the reputation and image of diesel around will require growing numbers of Americans to experience the best the world has to offer. Of course, upcoming regulations on diesel emissions may put a nail it the diesel coffin in the USA once and for all.
VehicleVoice Panelists Pretty Savvy
Overall, the panelists’ perceptions appear to be pretty well thought-out and rational. Many would consider a Hybrid, but it appears that they generally understand the implications of Hybrid technology.


  • George Peterson| January 15, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    Bill Spiers comments reflect common perceptions about hybrids. When asked about hybrids folks are a bit leery about their longterm reliability and even safety. For instance, what happens in an accident with a hybrid? Can emergency personnel deal with the volatile chemicals, etc? While hybrids seem to still be the darlings of the car-buying public, questions are starting to arise. Can they ever pay back their initial price premium? Is the improved fuel economy real or just a quirk of the EPA fuel economy cycle? What is the reliability? How much do the battery packs cost to replace? What is the actual resale value of a 2005 Prius in 2010?
    It’ll take years to answer these questions. Stay tuned to to keep current with our research findings.

  • Bill Spiers| January 11, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    I have no experience with hybrids at all, but I question their long term reliability and the cost to keep them operating at top efficiency after the warranties have expired. I expect the cost of the replacement batteries for these novelty vehicles along with higher maintenance costs will be their downfall. Only further advances in technology will save them, but perhaps those advances will bypass their current mileage advantages and make them irrelevant.

  • david barrett| November 4, 2005 at 1:11 pm

    I have some experience with Hybrids – drove a Ford Escape Hybrid 3,000 miles from Austin, TX to Alberta, Canada and back down to Salt Lake City… The hybrid SUV complained a bit when I put my foot down, but overall, was quiet, smooth, got about 35 miles to the gallon on the highway, and acted every bit the part of a small SUV when not in the gas station.

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