When purchasing a hybrid car, consumers have become accustomed to paying up to several thousand dollars extra in order to buy that set of wheels with the fuel-saving regenerative braking system. It’s almost hard to believe over 10 years have passed since the Prius first hit the roads, the inaugural hybrid has evolved from a curiosity to the milestone of one million in sales during 2008. Many consumers have become comfortable with hybrid cars’ higher sticker price, figuring they will save money on gas in the long run. Some would debate the environmental factors, but obviously decreasing fuel consumption is a factor in purchasing decision as well.
Now Ford is turning hybrid pricing on its head. Its 2011 Lincoln MKZ hybrid, upon this fall’s release, will have a sticker price identical to its twin that runs solely on gasoline. Ford touts that it is the first automaker to offer a luxury hybrid vehicle with a manufacturer’s suggest retail price equal to the same model only using gas.
Naturally some questions arise. I admit I was surprised to learn that Ford was still manufacturing Lincoln cars. Then I wondered why a carmaker would bother offering both if the pricing is the same—which of course is because the difference comes down to horsepower. The standard gas model offers 263 horsepower, while its hybrid twin falls behind at 191 horsepower. For many consumers, however, the miles per gallon difference will be the selling point: the hybrid boasts a combined rating of 39 mpg—the conventional model, 21 mpg.
Will this shift in pricing motivate other automobiles to slash the price of its hybrid models? That’s a nice thought, but doubtful: hybrid cars are more expensive simply because their powertrain technology remains relatively costly.
For now, Ford’s strategy appears to accept the new Lincoln as a loss-leader. Ford does not expect to make a huge profit off the hybrid MKZ. But its $35,000 price tag could lure those consumers who crave fuel-efficient automotive luxury (quite the oxymoron!) at a low price. Compared to other luxury hybrids, the Lincoln is much less expensive, a point that will not hurt Ford during tough economic times.
If hybrid cars become much more economical in price in the next few years, we may look back to the MKZ as an enormous step—but only if it takes off and excites the marketplace. Meanwhile, some of us are left raising our eyebrows, wondering what the point of automotive hybrid technology is if it just means we keep manufacturing larger and larger cars—their manufacturing energy requirements are still huge, hybrid or not.
Is anyone out there keen on this car? Share your thoughts.