Great price, yes. But remember, this car is considerably smaller than the Prius, which is not a huge car to begin with. It's 19 inches shorter and weighs 2,500 pounds, which is in itself amazing, considering that it has an electrical and a gas-burning powertrain. When you stand close to it, you realize how small it is.
I haven't actually seen those comparisons, Ann. All I've seen is that you'll never make up the cost difference between a hybrid and a conventional gas car. But that assumption was made when hybrids were $35K. At $19K, we have a different story. Even so, there are certainly cost and environmental consequences to electricity consumption -- that is, as long as most electricity is produced by coal or gas.
Rob, thanks for that moment of clarity. I totally agree, and it seems so obvious in hindsight once you've said it, but not so obvious to begin an analysis with. I think this is related to the total cradle-to-grave lifecycle costs you've often mentioned and written about, right?
I wonder if anyone has already done such an analysis on gasoline-powered vehicles?
One thing I haven't seen when it comes to the cost evaluation of hybrids and EVs is the cost of electricity. That's not free. So a cost analysis on whether a hybrid or EV pays for itself would have to include the cost of electricity, just as an environmental assessment would have to include the coal (usually) burned to create the electricity.
I think the price point can appeal to everyone, not just younger people. I'm neither younger nor a first-time buyer and this is the price point that will let me finally buy a hybrid. In fact, my equally older friend who spent $35K on the early Prius only was able to do so because he got a small windfall in the form of a $30K inheritance. And he bought it as his only car, not a second or third car.
If the car companies still think there are lots of people out there with lots of disposable income, perhaps they need to read more of the financial news. You know, that Great Depression thing? The one that pillaged so many of the Boomers' retirement incomes?
I agree with naperlou, the two-year payback period is also a winner.
This is a price point that will appeal to younger and first time buyers. On the other hand, I read recently, that one of the problems that the car companies had was that these buyers were foregoing automobiles. I have certianly noticed that with my sons and their friends. They don't seem to be rushing out to get their driver's licenses, much less a car. If there are a few that have a car, then they have no problem with asking for a ride. They also tend to live in cities where they can use public transport.
As for the Prius generally, these are relatively small cars. Even the standard Prius. So, for buyers with the money to buy one, they are typically second or third cars. Bringing the price down to this level might encourage some who commute by car to buy one just to insulate themselves from gasoline price shocks. I would certianly look at the Prius or the Fiat 500.
The companies do seem to following a model, which works. Bring out the more expensive model for those with a lot of disposable income. This allows one to recover engineering costs faster and to gain some experience with the new technology. This is the strategy articulated by Tesla in the all electric segment. There the cost of the batteries is very high. My understanding for the Tesla is that the battery pack was 25% of the $100K vehicle. The expectation is that the cost of the batteries will come down over time. It is happening more slowly than people thought.
Price is the key. I looked at a competing US made hybrid. The payback period (as comapred to the gasoline version) at $2.50 per gallon was less that two years. That was worth it. The Prius was always a little pricey as far as that goes. That is why Toyota still sells mostly conventionally gasoline powered cars.
That's a stunningly lower price, or maybe I haven't been paying attention recently. A friend and ex-colleague of mine who also lives way out here in the boonies bought one of the first Prius' at $35K. It was incredibly quiet, very powerful and impressed the heck out of me. But the price was too high. Under $19,000 looks very possible, and at least that earlier model was just fine for country driving. My friend is still very happy with it, and especially happy about all the money he's saved on gas.
Jenn: You are probably referring to some of the recent suggestions of wind/road noise associated with the Prius v, which came out in 2011. I've driven it and don't think it's an issue. From the outside, the Prius v is so quiet that Toyota is adding noise to help alert blind pedestrians.
The lower price could be a good test on the validity of the hybrid and EV models. Are these cars specialized second cars for those who have extra cash and want to demonstrate a commitment to green living. Or, are they viable autos that make sense as a primary vehicle?
If they succeed in volume, the recharging infrastructure will follow. If they succeed in volume, the price will stay in check or perhaps come down more.
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