Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The reason enviro-friendly cars are virtually invisible at the auto show according to Brock Yates:

Toyota trumpets its Prius hybrid, the winner of multiple awards, thanks to its space-age styling, its fiendishly complex computer-controlled drive train and its EPA-claimed 50-plus miles per gallon--all for under 25 grand. (A loss-leader price, many believe.) This is the current king of the hybrids, although its feeble performance limits its appeal to card-carrying enviros.

The Prius is selling well and no doubt is the harbinger of better hybrids to come. But with gasoline prices steady at about $1.60 a gallon, an economy beginning to seriously percolate and more Americans eschewing the delays, shakedowns and interrogations involved with air travel, the lure of the open road increases by the day. With it comes the romance--perceived or otherwise--of a freedom ride at the wheel of an automobile. This is a hateful thought for greenies, social engineers, media elites and intellectuals everywhere, but the lunatic love affair with the car remains in a state of steamy passion.

There is no debating that hybrids and fuel cells make sense in terms of the environment and reducing fossil-fuel dependence. But until these new powerplants can equal current conventional gasoline engines in terms of performance, cost and durability, auto makers will respond to the harsh realities of the marketplace. No amount of government mandates, media pressure or high-minded pontifications can replace the simple laws of supply and demand.

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