01 January 2008|
For the longest time I have wondered why the hybrid models were such a huge success in the United States. The waiting list for a Toyota Prius is now up to a staggering 8 months and the other hybrid models are along the same lines. It might be worth noting, however, that the sales of the regular consumer vehicles, being diesel and regular fuels, are still far and away the dominant sales in America. This only shows that the supposed craze for hybrids isn’t such a big deal, at least in environmental impact, as we thought.
One might say that it’s because there aren’t enough hybrids to go around, but that’s only half the truth. Across Europe and Asia, companies are unveiling their new hybrid models, actively trying to coax people off of that pesky oil. Even President Bush has pleaded with Americans to end their "addiction to oil,” and yet we still see no push from our domestic market, and no huge swing in demand toward the hybrid models. America still wants its gas-guzzling sports cars and SUVs. But the question now turns to why they still want to drive them in this new fuel conserving mentality.
The answer lies in what motivates people to purchase their new luxury automobiles instead of an “environmentally friendly” car. Those in America who have the luxuries are those who were willing to work hard enough to get it. This may explain why we import some of the most ingenious minds from around the globe, because they can appreciate what might be accomplished here. Simply put, what we have here is a country with many people who know what they want, have the education to back it up, and therefore the funds to buy their desires. But they aren't the majority.
So why on earth is the hybrid craze still struggling in these United States in times of oil feuds and spiking gas prices? Shouldn’t the middle class, with all this cash and market power, be demanding that American companies come out with a dominant hybrid line?
Well, one would have to ask the question: Just what is the incentive to switch?
Flash back to the early 1980s, where the average gallon of gas cost the consumer a whopping $1.40. During this time the average hourly wage across the country was around $7.30. So the average worker had to work roughly 12 minutes to put one gallon of fuel in his car. 12 minutes of work for one gallon doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Gas has since gone up to about $2.50 on average today. But today’s worker earns something in the area of $16.50 an hour now, which brings us down to about 9 minutes a gallon. Could the price of gas have really gotten cheaper? Of course it didn’t, it raised $1.10 over 20 plus years, almost double the price, but the amount we earn has grown at a faster rate than the gas prices did.
So I ask again, where is the incentive to switch to the hybrid cars? If it’s cheaper to buy gas now then back in the day when there wasn’t a gas “panic,” why would anyone even consider driving such an inferior vehicle? The answer is that there still isn’t an incentive for us to want that mockery of an automobile, at least not one strong enough to switch over millions of Americans. Even the American automobile industries aren’t in any rush to produce hybrids that are able to compete with the imports. In a world of shrinking oil supplies and a complete dependence on other countries, it’s nice to know that I can still fill up my luxury sports car and not have a care in the world.
The above work is the opinion of the author, and not necessarily that of the Prometheus Institute.