Will Small Cars Finally Capture American Hearts?

Neil Winton, European columnist for Autos Insider questions the economics of expensive hybrids, but also see small cars as economical, practical and now driveable.

Published: 08-Jan-2006

When you look around the Detroit Car Show, otherwise known as the North American International Auto Show, you probably won't spot the sea change which is about to hit the American car market. Clue: It's not connected to hybrids.

Sure, there will be the usual glitz and glamor as the big car manufacturers try to tempt potential buyers with their most sensual, extravagant and inappropriate new products.

And there will also be a huge effort by car makers to show how much they care about the environment. You'll see futuristic hydrogen fuel-cell powered concept cars. There will be engines fired by diesel, bio-diesel, ethanol, compressed natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas. And above all there will be truckloads of hybrid cars - which combine gasoline engines and electric motors. But hybrids are expensive. The Ford Escape hybrid costs $3,300 more than the non-hybrid version. The Lexus RX400h costs $5,800 more than its gasoline equivalent RX330.

Failing to deliver


Playing catch-up a decade late, the world's auto giants now find that they have to lease or buy technology from Toyota.

Spc. Jeffrey Hamme and Staff Sgt. Michelangelo Merksamer of HHC, 1/506th Infantry, point out features of the Hybrid Electric Humvee at the AUSA Annual Meeting earlier this month. The two Soldiers participated in a Military Utility Assessment of the prototype vehicle last month at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Ford's 'Hybrid Patrol,' a 10-city initiative this fall that aims to show hybrid drivers how to drive for best fuel economy. EV World photo of Bill and Lisa Hammond on way to first Ford Patrol event in Detroit during stop-over in Omaha.


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