ST THE CUTTING-EDGE Ferraris, Jaguars, and Lexus concept vehicles at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit last week was one particularly pricey concept that is a government creation: a federal tax gift to upper-class Americans buying fuel-efficient hybrid cars.
While Washington played host to the presidential inauguration, 6,000 international journalists and nearly a million spectators descended on America's Motor City for a different kind of inauguration: the annual rollout of the auto industry's newest products. One of the market's hottest niches is for green vehicles like the Toyota Prius and the Honda Accord Hybrid--gasoline/electric hybrids marketed to liberal, socially-conscious buyers with six-figure incomes. In 2004, hybrid sales reached 80,000 units in the United States, mostly to "luxury-type vehicle owners, people who want to be first on their block with plasma screen TVs and all that," says Ford spokesman Dan Bedore.
Limousine liberals? Call them "hybrid liberals."
But unlike other, low-volume niches such as plasma TVs or high-performance sports cars, hybrid buyers will not be paying a premium for their products. In fact, they will be receiving a federal subsidy of $2,000 per car.
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