As New Hybrids Are Rolled Out, Will Sales Keep Pace?

GM plans to debut two hybrids using different drive systems, while Toyota rolls out its new Camry hybrid and Ford unviels diesel-electric sport concept vehicle.

Published: 06-Jan-2006

OIT -- Automakers are rolling out several new hybrids at this year's North American International Auto Show as hybrid sales continue to grow at a phenomenal pace. But consumers are finding out that hybrids are more expensive and may save less fuel than they thought, which could put the brakes on future hybrid sales.

General Motors Corp. is making one of the most visible pushes, introducing two models with different types of hybrid power systems at the show in Detroit. Toyota Motor Corp. will introduce its new hybrid-powered Camry, while Ford Motor Co. will show off a sporty concept vehicle with a diesel-electric hybrid system it says gets up to 65 miles per gallon. Subaru also will have a hybrid concept at the show, which opens to the public Jan. 14.

Some industry analysts say these vehicles and others coming to market in 2006 will spur more phenomenal growth for the U.S. hybrid market, which has increased by more than 140 percent in the past year alone. But others wonder if that growth will begin to stall, since hybrid vehicles remain far more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts.

"As people live with them and maybe do some math, and if prices stay at the premium stage, you're just going to see sales slow," said Rebecca Lindland, an auto analyst with the Waltham, Mass.-based consulting firm Global Insight.

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