Hybrid Cars Stir Buzz But Jury Still Out Long-Term
DETROIT -- Despite a tiny presence in the US car market, hybrid vehicles were the most popular topic at the North American International Auto Show this week as auto executives gauged the future of the gas/electric and other engine novelties.
After a year with 88,000 hybrid units sold through just three brands -- Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. -- sales of vehicles with hybrid gasoline-electric engines are expected to more than double to at least 200,000 units in 2005 as high oil prices grab more consumer attention.
Some rosy forecasts for the end of the decade range from 500,000 units to 1 million. But while pioneer Toyota has aggressive goals to eventually offer the hybrid option on its entire fleet, many major players remain cool on the vehicles, opting instead to promote other forms of fuel-saving technology such as cleaner diesel, hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) and advanced direct injection systems.
Still, the powertrain got another boost this week as Ford, whose gasoline-electric Escape sport utility vehicle (SUV) was crowned North American Truck of the Year on Sunday, unveiled plans to add three more hybrid models by 2008.
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