From the Los Angeles Times: “Hybrid car sales go from 60 to 0 at breakneck speed“
Americans have cut back on buying vehicles of all types as the economy continues its slide. But the slowdown has been particularly brutal for hybrids, which use electricity and gasoline as power sources. They were the industry’s darling just last summer, but sales have collapsed as consumers refuse to pay a premium for a fuel-efficient vehicle now that the average price of a gallon of gasoline nationally has slipped below $2.
“When gas prices came down, the priority of buying a hybrid fell off quite quickly,” said Wes Brown, a partner at Los Angeles-based market research firm Iceology. “Yet even as consumer interest declined, the manufacturers have continued to pump them out.”
Last month, only 15,144 hybrids sold nationwide, down almost two-thirds from April, when the segment’s sales peaked and gas averaged $3.57 a gallon. That’s far larger than the drop in industry sales for the period and scarcely a better showing than January, when hybrid sales were at their lowest since early 2005.
Yet automakers believe they have little choice but to make more hybrids. Though car buyers are losing interest, politicians are pushing them as key to reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and limiting the global-warming gases that cars emit into the atmosphere.
In January, President Obama called on the industry to “thrive by building the cars of tomorrow” and prepare for federal and state regulations that could push average fuel economy above 40 miles per gallon by 2020.
“The automakers are in the situation of needing to pacify politicians that are in the position to bail them out with expensive fuel-efficient cars,” said Rebecca Lindland, auto analyst with IHS Global Insight. “But shouldn’t it be more about satisfying the needs of the American consumer?”
Silly Rebecca. The American consumer has no idea about what is really in his best interest. Only our overlords in Washington DC truly understand the complex issues of mass transportation, personal safety, economics, and environmental sustainability necessary to produce an automobile that perfectly satisfies the needs of the American consumer while simultaneously freeing us from dependence on foreign oil and saving the planet.
For years, liberals and environmentalists have been peddling conspiracy theories about “big” industry working to keep innovative, fuel-efficient automobiles off the market. But as this story clearly illustrates, the truth is that Americans prefer dependable, well-understood technology in their cars. They want cars that are not overly expensive to repair or maintain. They also prefer them to be big enough for comfort and to provide a reasonable amount of protection in a crash. Tiny exotic cars simply fail to live up to these basic requirements.
In other words, it will take nothing short of a catastrophe to force Americans to drive hybrid or electric automobiles in large numbers. And it seems most likely at this time that such a catastrophe will be the direct result of government planning, combined with good old government mismanagement and inefficiency.
If Americans don’t buy these cars voluntarily, then how will American automakers recoup the billions of dollars that they have been forced to spend on their design, manufacture, and marketing? You guessed it — more government bailouts and subsidies — and government contracts to purchase the vehicles, since no one else wants them. It’s not a stretch to imagine Ford and GM in five years, stuck on permanent Federal government life support, shackled by the regulations and restrictions attached to the money, building eco-weenie cars that only hippies, cheap Europeans, and government agencies will buy; while foreign automakers like Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, BMW, and Daimler take over the larger American consumer car market with dependable, safe, and efficient gasoline-powered automobiles.
Of course our government can avoid such a disaster by creating an entirely different one. The Federal government can (and probably will; they’ve already laid the groundwork for it) effectively strangle domestic oil and gas production with excess taxes and regulations. If fuel taxes are also increased, and new cents-per-mile vehicle use taxes are imposed, and gasoline is pushed back up to the $4 – $5 per gallon range, then more people will be forced to buy hybrid and electric cars. Of course the oil and gas industry will suffer another late ’70’s-style financial meltdown, and poor Americans will end up bearing the brunt of the new taxes. But hey, we’ll all be driving tiny electric or hybrid cars!
Hope and Change!TM
Note to trolls: Yes, I know that electric cars have many advantages over gasoline powered cars. But right now, Americans do not want cars with technology that is poorly understood (by them) and expensive to maintain, no matter how advanced it is. That’s the bottom line, and that’s the point of this post.