Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Prius Politics

A developer friend of mine called me from the beach today. He related how it was nice to have time to truly read the newspaper while you are on vacation. Today, for instance, he told me that he spent some time with the editorial page of the Washington Post. It was there that he ran across "Prius Politics" by Robert J. Samuelson. He said it was quite apropos given all the green initiatives popping up not only here in Howard County but across the nation too. It's a great read and an important perspective.

3 comments:

B. Santos said...

WB,

Very interesting. On a related topic, DC blogger Richard Layman put up this post on 06JUL07:

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2007/07/buying-and-selling-statement.html

It seems that a majority of people surveyed who had recently purchased a Prius did so because "it made a statement about who I am." Interesting...

Wolf River Enterprises said...

In early 2001, I considered -- to the point of putting down a deposit and waiting several months for delivery -- purchasing a Prius. This action was then very much a statement of my values, as many Prius drivers state.

Turns out that my personal driving habits didn't make me the best candidate for the fuel savings possible from a Prius. And, in the end, I bought a loaded Honda Accord for less money than I would have shelled out for a Prius and, I might add, a much sweeter ride.

The way I saw it, there are many paths to expressing environmental concern and minimizing my "carbon footprint." I'm fairly attentive to this subject and my personal choices in this regard.

Plus, the Accord really handled the road well! And that was just fun, fun, fun! :)

Robin Abello said...

The rise in gas prices plus the popular movement for environmentalism (#1 issue among the youth today according to a recent survey) has accounted for more people buying a Prius. I had a client who recently told me his son (8th grade) wants him to trade in his SUV for a Prius.

The fact that you can tell a Prius apart from a non-hybrid car was Toyota's marketing genius. If Honda made a hybrid that was a totally different car (and not a 2-seater like their Insight), it would probably sell more than their Civic.

Just a disclaimer, we are Prius fans. We bought our Prius back in 2003 when gas prices were still in the $1.50 range and we bought it because we just liked the merits of fuel economy (our previous cars were 2 Honda Civics and now we also have a Honda Civic Hybrid). We've known some folks who are new Prius owners and we're glad they're buying a Prius instead of an SUV.

There has to be a wider across the board change of attitude on fuel economy for these little steps to really cause an effect down the road. Americans have a reputation to not care about fuel economy. Even the car manufacturers believed this to the point that Honda built the Accord hybrid without focusing much on its fuel economy and instead focused on the increased power of the car. Their thought was that Americans would buy it more for muscle than for saving on gas.

The end-result was an eye-opener for Honda as the sales were poor so they recently discontinued the Honda Accord Hybrid. Toyota followed a similar philosophy with the Lexus hybrids, but they haven't pulled those out of the market which may suggest that luxury car buyers don't worry too much about gas prices or Toyota is happy enough with Prius sales to not worry too much about Lexus hybrid sales. Although I read recently that the latest Bentley is one of the most fuel innefficient cars in the world.

And it's not just Honda that misread the public's changing appetite for fuel-efficient cars. 6 years ago Ford had a management change and they embarked on a new direction for the company. Their prediction was that SUVs would continue to lead auto sales in America indefinitely. In the past 2 years, SUV sales plunged so dramatically that American car manufacturers were caught off-guard.

The question is will Americans go back to SUVs if gas prices were to fall back to the $1.50 levels?