Invasion of the Hybrids
Hybrid vehicles are proliferating, and not just because gas prices spiked to above $3 per gallon last year. Auto makers showing off new hybrid vehicles and plans at this week's North American International Auto Show in Detroit realize that having a hybrid vehicle lineup is valuable public relations for their images.
General Motors (GM ), Toyota (TM ), Ford (F ), Hyundai, Honda (HMC ), Subaru, and Nissan (NSANY ) are all promoting new hybrid vehicles. The total market for these cars, which run on a combination of electricity and gasoline and generally get better gas mileage than gas-only engines, is expected to reach 780,000 vehicles a year by 2012 as new models are introduced, according to J.D. Power & Associates Automotive Forecasting Services. Even so, hybrids would still only make up 4.2% of the vehicles sold.
Ford will have four hybrids on sale by 2008, including the Escape SUV, Mercury Mariner SUV, Ford Fusion, and Mercury Milan. And at this show, Ford also is showing a concept car, the Reflex, which is powered by a diesel-electric hybrid engine. Ford CEO Bill Ford says the company made a big mistake last year by not heavily advertising the Escape, the industry's first hybrid SUV.
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