Hybrid Cars May Be Industry’s Next High Profit Center

By dancurranjr On December 16th, 2009

new-insightIs it possible that the auto industry has found it’s latest Holy Grail?

For a long time, the industry had relied on its pickup trucks and sports-utility vehicles (SUVs) as their largest profit centers. Indeed, they looked at these vehicles as the geese that laid the golden eggs. That changed with the sharp spike in gas prices a couple of years ago. With gasoline now settling back to the $2.50-$2.75 range the margin on pickups and SUVs is razor thin, if theres any at all.

However, if you look at the hybrid segment, theres an interesting phenomenon going on. The 10 least expensive hybrids are priced between $19,800 and $28,100. And the prices seem to be holding at or near dealer invoice, which means that dealers are making a profit on these vehicles that, while it may not approach the same levels as their former star profit-makers, they are still doing all right.

AOL’s list looked like this (from least to most expensive):

  1. Honda’s reborn Insight. The Insight was the first hybrid to market, beating Toyota by a full year, and became a cult car when it didn’t achieve the mass it needed to be considered a mass-market car. The Insight is priced at $19,800.
  2. Toyota’s Prius Hybrid. Available since 2001, this has been the vehicle to beat in the hybrid market. It achieved the critical mass needed to become a market mainstay and offers a wide variety of features, including 40-plus mpg on the highway. The Prius starts at $21,000.
  3. Honda’s Civic Hybrid. The Insight was produced until 2006, although it was very limited in its last year on the market. The Civic Hybrid, which came to market in the 2003 sales, powered by a 1.3-liter four, is available only as a sedan and is starts at $23,800.
  4. Chevrolet’s Malibu Hybrid is next. It is also a mid-sized, rather than a compact as are the first three on this list. Still, it achieves respectable mileage of 34 on the highway and 26 in the city. It is powered by a 2.4-liter Ecotec four and cranks out 164-horsepower. It is priced at $25,592.
  5. Toyota offers the next hybrid with a Camry Hybrid. Priced starting at $26,150, this front-drive mid-sized sedan seats five and offers mileage of 34 and 33, highway/city.
  6. Saturn, although no longer part of General Motors’ active stable, has an entry with its Aura Hybrid. It is essentially the same car as the Malibu Hybrid mid-sized and achieves mileage of 36 and 24, highway/city. It is priced starting at $26,325.
  7. Nissan’s Altima Hybrid is next. Another mid-sized sedan, it seats five and powered by an electric motor that is charged by a 158-horsepower, 2.5-liter four. The interesting ratings for this vehicle are its highway/city rating. The Altima Hybrid achieves 33 mpg on the highway (probably the most realistic estimate so far in this bunch) and 35 around town. This is the type of mileage skew you would expect in a hybrid. The reason is that in the city the vehicle can take advantage of the natural charge offered by first and second gearing as well as the charging of the regenerative braking system that does put a lot of energy into the battery system. The Altima Hybrid starts at $26,780.
  8. The Ford Fusion Hybrid is next on the list. The 2010 Fusion was radically restyled for the 2010 model year, roughly three years into its product cycle which makes this an even more interesting offering because automakers usually wait until the fifth or six year of their product cycle to change a model radically, but Ford chose to do it halfway into the Fusions product cycle for 2010 and the result is not only a Car of the Year, but also an exciting product. The Fusion Hybrid if a sedan that seats five and uses a 2.5-liter four to power its electrical system. Ford is another of the automakers that uses honest figures in its mileage, showing its highway mileage to be 36 mpg and its city cycle to be 41 mpg. This is a far more honest way of listing things. This model starts at $27,625.
  9. Mercury’s Milan Hybrid, the Mercury twin of the Fusion, is next on the list and it offers the same figures at the Fusion. It starts at $27,855.
  10. The Saturn Vue Hybrid rounds out this list. An SUV, this orphan GM model is a front-drive model that seats five. It starts at $28,160.

Given the interest many potential buyers are showing in hybrid technology and given the fact that this list of 10 vehicles is a list of the least expensive vehicles on the market, it is extremely likely that for a while, at least, the auto industry has found another magic golden goose that could bring in added profitability. The reason for this is simply that all the industry has to do is keep the numbers down and it can keep the price and profitability up. Its simply supply and demand.

SOURCE: All Cars Electric

Prius Receives Best Buy Status From Consumer Guide

By dancurranjr On December 2nd, 2009

toyota-phev-priusJust how far has the automotive world come in the past few years? The Toyota Prius has just won Consumer Guide Automotive’s best buy status. And it’s not just a mainstream consumer magazine that is recognizing hybrids, Car & Driver magazine, a publication that is about as oil drenched and horsepower addicted as they come, has just awarded the Ford Fusion Hybrid a spot on its coveted 10 Best Cars For 2010 list.

Consumer Guide Automotive has been cranking out reviews for new and used cars for over 40 years, and their 2010 Best Buy and Recommended Awards is aimed for the general car buying public to make car buying easier. It’s about as wide ranging an inventory of recommendations as you could ask for, suggesting the best overall values in 18 vehicle categories.

“This once fringe technology has finally matured,” said Tom Appel, Associate Publisher at Consumer Guide Automotive speaking of Toyota’s Prius.

The standouts on the list are hybrids and alt-fueled cars. In addition to the list-topping Prius, there are a record setting 23 hybrid or diesel fueled cars that receive recognition. Another notable car on the list was Ford’s Fusion, which was given “Best Buy” honors in the midsize car category by Consumer Guide. They did not specify which Fusion, but it’s worth noting that the Fusion Hybrid has been a real stand-out since its introduction.

At least that’s the way Car & Driver feels about Ford’s hybrid sedan.

When C&D announced their 28th annual list of 10Best cars sold in America this week, it was hard not to notice that the Ford Fusion Hybrid was on the list. It was one of only two American made cars (the other being the 2010 Cadillac CTS / CTS-V) and was only the second hybrid ever given the honor. The other being the Toyota Prius, that made the list in 2004.

Car & Driver was fairly up front about the inclusion of the Fusion Hybrid, saying putting it on the list was “A positive sign of the times for a US car manufacturer … ‘ The rest of the list is about what you’d expect from Car & Driver: the Porsche Boxster / Cayman, the BMW 3-series / M3 and Honda Accord made the list, and of course the evergreen Mazda MX-5 (a long running favorite of ours here at Autopia).

Maybe, finally, things are starting to turn a corner. Perhaps with people like the staff of Car & Driver coming on board, there will not only be more acceptance of hybrids and alt-fuels by the car buying public in general, but also acceptance by the dyed-in-the-wool hot rodders out there too.


BMW Begins to Take Orders in Japan for 1st Hybrid Cars

By dancurranjr On November 14th, 2009

bmw-5-series-conceptBMW Japan Corp. said Thursday it has begun to take orders for its German parent’s first gasoline-electric hybrid cars with delivery planned to start next summer.

Available for ordering are the BMW Active Hybrid 7 and 7L of the flagship BMW 7 series.

Among other foreign auto dealers in Japan, Mercedes-Benz Japan Co. has already launched a hybrid car in a bid to take advantage of government tax breaks for eco-friendly vehicles.

The BMW hybrids raise fuel efficiency by 15 percent from the level for its BMW 750i by combining a 4.4-liter V-shaped eight-cylinder engine with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. They feature an idling-stop system that automatically stops the engine when the car comes to a halt, to help prevent unnecessary fuel consumption.

The Active Hybrid 7 will sell for 12.8 million yen and the Active Hybrid 7L for 14.05 million yen

Cadillac Will Build Two-Mode Hybrid SRX

By dancurranjr On April 16th, 2009

srx-cadillacCadillac officials acknowledged today that the SRX crossover, which will arrive in U.S. dealerships in early August, will eventually be fitted with the two-mode electric hybrid system.

It would be the same basic arrangement of parts as used in the full-size pickup trucks and SUVs for the last couple of years. General Motors’ plan initially called for the Saturn Vue to be the first mid size crossover withing the corporation to receive a version of that system. Ooooh…yeah, that situation is very much in flux, as they say. Saturn said that it expected the Vue two-mode to be able to do 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds and return 27 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway with its combination direct-injection V6 and twin 55-kilowatt electric motors. It’s fair to assume the Cadillac would perform similarly. For comparison, Cadillac estimates that a conventional front-wheel-drive SRX powered by the 3.0-liter direct-injection V6 should return 18/25 mpg, city/highway.

No word on timing for the two-mode SRX but we wouldn’t expect it before the 2011 model year. A few main competitors either already offer a hybrid crossover in roughly the same size and price class (Lexus) or plan to within the next couple of years (Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen).

SOURCE: Edmunds

Cadillac SRX online

Ford Hybrid Cars and All-Electric Ford Vehicles Unveil Fuel-Efficient Strategy

By dancurranjr On April 10th, 2009

ford-electric-concept-connectFord Motor Company has unveiled plans to deliver some exciting fuel-efficient strategies for consumers. While there are questions raised about the future of General Motors and Chrysler, Ford has already outlined new all-electric automobile solutions. The automaker plans to move its portfolio to all-electric vehicles.

“In 10 years, 12 years, you are going to see a major portion of our portfolio move to electric vehicles,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally said in a statement.

The company appears to be on track to bring all-electric cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles to market starting next year. The new hybrids are using a next-generation technology of lithium ion batteries which are widely used in consumer electronics. Ford will also begin selling a new commercial Transit Connect van starting next year.

“You’ll see more hybrids, but you will really see a lot more electric vehicles,” Mulally said.

The Ford Transit Connect van will have a range of 100 miles on a single charge. The van will offer top speeds of 70 miles per hour. This is one of the most exciting features for an automobile which is powered by electric energy.

New Ford hybrid cars and all-electric vehicles could offer more than 100 miles per gallon.

Ford will release a new plug-in version of one of its current hybrid vehicles. The car will get 120 miles per gallon for the first 30 miles and then the vehicle will get 40 miles per gallon. This automobile will be perfect for in-town travel, but still offers the traditional hybrid mileage for longer distances.

Ford Pricing on New Hybrid Cars and Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Prices for the electric and plug-in hybrid cars will be in the slight premium range, according to Ford. The new automobile prices will be comparable to what consumers pay for hybrids today. However, prices could even drop further if electric vehicles bring a higher volume of battery manufacturing.