Luxury Hybrids Showing at Geneva Show

Last Tuesday at the Geneva Auto Show, the latest in luxury hybrids were shown by a number of automakers. Those planning new luxury hybrid additions to their existing product lines also announced their plans. All the hype leads to the question of whether or not hybrids are truly the future of the auto industry or simply a lot of marketing flash to generate interest while the gas powered engine continues to rule the roads.

Porsche opened the show with its hybrid Cayenne S SUV. Toyota has announced plans to make available hybrid versions of every model in their line by 2020. French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen SA will begin making its own hybrids available two years from now.

For the most part, automakers are responding to the growing customer demand for the gas-electric vehicles. Each has a plan to remain competitive in the changing market as standards for fuel efficiency and technology change.

Andrea Formica, Toyota European Vice President says, Our experience with Prius and other hybrids tells us that market acceptance of hybrids is growing.

The statistics tell the story. In 2009, worldwide sales of hybrids totaled 530,000 units, which was a 24% increase over the previous year. In Europe, Prius sales (despite a rough market) rose by 3% to 44,000 in 2009.

Formica said, Drivers of hybrids are no longer pioneers or early adapters. They are more and more mainstream buyers.

Toyota can crank out new generations of its wildly popular Prius hybrid as the world’s largest automaker, but for most companies the best way to succeed currently is to improve the traditional gas powered models. Some carmakers see the creation of hybrid models as a way to appeal to guilt-ridden buyers concerned about going green and reducing their carbon footprint.

Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson says, Hybrid sales are not booming in any part of the world. One reason being, of course, is it is a very expensive proposition and today’s gasoline and diesel applications are getting more and more efficient. Many people are asking themselves, for another two miles per gallon or whatever it might be, is it really worthwhile paying $5,000 or $6,000 for a hybrid solution? He went on to say, I think the hybrids need to be a little more cost-efficient until we see a volume.

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