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Americans Want Hybrids And Toyota's Ready To Build More

For all the talk about high gas prices pushing people to drive less or downsize from SUVs to cars, one thing is clear: more car buyers want gas/electric hybrids.

A new survey today by Auto Futures Group/TechnoMetrica concludes that people would rather buy gas/electric hybrids instead of diesel powered cars. Diesel fans will roll their eyes and say that's ridiculous, but that's the way it is.

The survey also found the first move for people wanting to get out of a gas guzzler is to downsize. According to the survey, at today’s gas prices, 37% of people intend to purchase a sub-compact or compact car, at $6.00 per gallon this rises to 58%, and at $8.00 per gallon it climbs to 65%.

How many of those people might go for a hybrid is hard to say. But demand for these gas/electric cars is taking off. In fact, many dealers are back to keeping waiting lists on the hottest selling hybrids, like Toyota's Prius. The biggest constraint is developing batteries.

Which is why Toyota's announcement in Japan that it plans to roll out two new hybrids next year and expand battery production is important. The company knows there's a clamoring for it's gas/electric hybrids. It already plans to bring out a new version of the Prius next year, and one gets the feeling this is just the start.

As much as other automakers may hate it, Toyota remains the clear leader in hybrids. The Prius has become the gold standard among gas/electric cars. That's the advantage of being the first, and most best selling hybrid. And I don't think that will change anytime soon.

Toyota knows hybrids are becoming the car of choice for those fed up with gas prices and by next year it plans to have more gas/electric cars to choose from.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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