Well, very smallish sample size, but what this tells me is that my LJ readers are more likely to pick a compact car instead of an SUV.
What the general consensus is in the rest of the automotive world is that Joe and/or Jane Auto Buyer will lean toward the SUV or crossover (“don’t call me a cute-ute”) utility vehicle instead of the small car.
Or at least this was true until about April of this year, when gasoline prices spiked due to a rather amusing confluence of the US dollar tanking in international currency exchange and a few supply issues.
Yep, that’s right, kids: If you correct for the falling US dollar (which is the international currency of choice for oil transactions), the price of crude has merely *doubled* or thereabouts, not *quadrupled*.
Meanwhile, Edmunds has come out with a cost-of-ownership list for the US market and to the surprise of virtually nobody remotely knowledgeable about automobiles, the highest-ranking hybrid is the Honda Civic Hybrid in 14th place. In first place, with the lowest cost of ownership? The Chevrolet Aveo, a delightfully nasty little box assembed by GM Daewoo in South Korea and sold worldwide under a bewildering variety of names (the Chinese Chery JJ is a complete copy, by the way — Chery managed to sneak out of Daewoo with the CAD models and prints for the car when Daewoo was in bankruptcy, before GM bought Daewoo. An Aveo door will bolt right up to a JJ, for example) is the winner this year.
A local Hyundai dealer is running radio spots comparing Hyundais with hybrids — if you buy a Honda Civic Hybrid instead of a Hyundai Accent, at current gas prices, you’ll recoup the difference in purchase cost with fuel savings in about 18 years. If you buy a Toyota Camry Hybrid instead of a Hyundai Sonata (assembled in Mississippi, by the way), it’ll take just under 20 years to recover the purchase price difference in gas savings. And while the latest Sonata freshening took what was a very nice-looking car and made it Korean-funky instead (quick, guess which version was done in-house at Hyundai and which was done by an Italian design house?), I will say that having driven both the Sonata and a fairly well-optioned Camry, I’d pick the Sonata in a heartbeat: it’s a much nicer car.
The thing is… and I say this as someone with a vested interest in hybrid automobile sales since that’s what I’m getting paid to make happen these days… hybrids in their present form are a feel-good that make precious little fiscal sense to the average consumer. If you have a fleet of city taxis or urban-area delivery vehicles, where LOTS of miles are racked up quickly but only in stop-and-go traffic, a hybrid may make sense — that is the operating mode where the most benefit happens, and a fleet vehicle that’s in near-constant operation will increase the rate of recovery versus an equivalent conventional vehicle in the same duty cycle.
My criteria right now for a car purchase is “can I recover the cost of buying the car in fuel savings vs driving my truck every day, within the span of a 4-year car loan?” So far, the answer is no, even with gasoline running about US$4.10/US gallon and diesel at US$4.65/US gallon. Even with the car being a smart fortwo. Or an Aveo (which I don’t fit into very well anyway), for that matter. I have a spreadsheet with all the permutations quantified — I’m not getting rid of the truck, but if I keep it on towing and limited non-towing duty, it will go X miles and consume about Y gallons of diesel in a year, which I balance against a car driving Z miles (the balance of my annual driving currently done by the truck), consuming A gallons of gasoline. The difference over 4 years has to be greater than the cost of buying the car and insuring it. Not gonna happen unless diesel prices REALLY spike.