Let The Hybrid/Electric Car Wars Begin
At an auto show that lacks "buzz", there are a couple of battles taking shape. Both of them could have major implications as to what we will be driving for years to come.
After dominating the gas-electric hybrid category for years, Toyota'sPrius will soon find itself facing some legitimate competition. Ford's Hybrid Fusion hits showrooms this spring boasting 41 mpg and the ability to get 700 miles on tank of gas. It's styling, which is nice, but unremarkable presents a far different look than the Prius.
Honda'snew Insight is another "Prius fighter" and is already getting plenty of attention because its styling is no longer quirky. It will get 40 mpg when it goes on sale this spring. Honda hopes to sell 90,000 annually in the U.S. For comparison, Toyota sold 159,000 Prius hybrids last year.
Don't count out the Prius. It's been re-designed, will deliver better mileage, and will be unveiled Monday in Detroit. Even though Prius sales may pale in comparison to the Toyota Camry and Corolla, it is a critical car for the Japanese auto maker. The Prius is the ultimate "halo car" in the auto world with 70% owner loyalty and a pristine image that has put Toyota above the competition. You bet they want to win this new battle in the hybrid war.
Electric and extended range electric cars
Even though these models won't be out for a few more years and only in limited numbers, the electric car competition is heating up.
GM gets the most attention, largely because of how much publicity the Chevy Volt has generated. This year in Detroit GM has made it clear it is leveraging the Volt technology with plans for more electric cars. The Cadillac Converj is generating the most buzz given its aggressive look and a cock pit that looks like something out of Knight Rider. Yes, I know that it's a concept, so how much of the touch screen instrument panel become reality, is very much in doubt.
Ford and Chrysler have also announced plans to build and sell electric cars by 2011. Toyota will sell one by 2012. Exactly what those models will look like remains a big question, but the fact they are all committed is important. It shows everyone wants to tap rapidly developing technology for "zEro" or low emission vehicles.
Tesla is stepping up to the plate and has a presence on the main floor here in Detroit. Tesla has legions of fans (yes, I hear you) who believe the company does not get the credit it deserves for sparking interest in electric cars. Perhaps they're right to an extent, but Tesla also needs to roll out a greater number of models at lower price points as this electric car business heats up.
Finally, Chinese auto maker BYD is showing it e6 electric minivan. It will run on ferrous metal batteries developed by BYD. These batteries are designed to deliver better performance than lithium ion batteries. BYD plans to sell the e6 in the U.S. by 2011 at a price of $30,000 to $40,000.
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