Can Hype Sell An Inferior Hybrid?

fusion.jpgSomeone must have a really good press agent to get this one so much attention.
According to a U.S. News and World Report review, two automotive publications have published comparisons of the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid against the Toyota Prius and Camry Hybrid, with Ford winning both.
USA Today stated that the Ford drives better than the Prius, and that when the gasoline kicked in to help the electric on the Fusion, there was no vibration or shimmying. Now I’m not a professional test driver, so I realize I won’t notice certain things the way a professional would. But I always rent a Prius when a rental car is necessary, and I’ve never felt any kind of vibration or shimmying. And I suspect your average driver would not likely notice something like this either, unless it was a real hassle. Looking to Prius owners I know, I’ve never heard that complaint.

And the Car and Driver article did little more than boast the Fusion’s 34-mpg fuel economy, and call it a “game changer” that’s fun to drive.
To be honest, after reading the headline, “Ford Fusion Hybrid Tops Camry, Prius in Comparisons,” I was pretty excited. Certainly any proof that a Detroit automaker upped the ante in the race for fuel efficiency would be extraordinarily good news. But unfortunately, this so-called positive press for the Fusion Hybrid turned out to be nothing more than another sad attempt to convince the consumer that Detroit can compete successfully when it comes to better fuel economy.
Don’t get me wrong. GM, Ford and Chrysler all have some amazing technology in the works. And it is that technology that many are banking on to keep these guys in business in the future. But today, they continue to fall short.
This notion that the Ford Fusion drives better, as the USA Today article indicated, may be true. But the Prius isn’t a slouch, and really drives no differently than your average, mid-sized car. So admittedly I’d be curious to know specifically how this vehicle “drives better.” Still, that doesn’t really matter much when you’re trying to attract the fuel-conscious crowd. For them, it’s mostly about fuel economy.
While the Ford Fusion delivers 34 miles per gallon, the 2009 Prius delivers 46 miles per gallon. And the price tag on the Prius is $6,000 less than the $28,000 you’ll have to shell out for the Fusion.
My real concern here, however, is that consumers will look at these advertisements disguised as news articles, and believe that 34 miles per gallon is an acceptable fuel economy. It is not. Not when the 2010 Prius is expected to get 50 mpg, and the 2010 Honda Insight gets 41 mpg. Not when Chinese automaker, BYD (HK:1211) is currently pumping out a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that runs 62 miles in all-electric mode before it kicks into regular hybrid mode. That vehicle is expected to arrive in the U.S. in about two to three years, and retails around $20,000. And not when even the smaller start-ups like Phoenix Motorcars and Tesla have already produced electric vehicles that deliver in excess of 100 miles on one electric charge.
Let’s just hope the next round of fuel-efficient vehicles from Detroit boasts the state-of-the-art technology they’re capable of delivering. It’ll get them a lot further than more press releases and suspect reviews.

I am the co-founder and managing editor of Green Chip Stocks. We are an independent investment research service focused exclusively on "green" markets.

6 responses

  1. I’ve seen the ads for Chevy cars touting “over 30 mpg” as if it’s a feature that beats Toyota. I drive a Civic which gets 36-40 mpg city, and have to laugh and ask myself, is the American consumer that stupid to believe this kind of crap, or is it the American car companies who are the idiots?

  2. I drive a 93 toyota corolla (manual transmission) that gets over 37mpg highway. I actually calculated it out on a 550 mile drive, and that was my average. I can get about the same in the city if I am careful about how and when i shift.
    I get frustrated when I see lower figures advertised. I dont understand how we havnt improved on technology of 17 years ago…

  3. OK, you Americans need a reality check. 30-40mpg? This is still not good! I get 48mpg on my daily commute, which is on fast country roads. I get even better economy on the motorway. Want to know why?

    I drive a SMALL CAR. Yeah, baby! Say it loud; I’m small and I’m proud!

    It’s a Skoda (VW design, Czech engineering!), and it’s a lot of car for its teeny price tag. But it’s only got a 1.2 litre engine. It won’t burn up the road; it won’t burn up too much fuel either.

    Until they can make a state-of-the-art hybrid that gets better mileage than my boring, conventional, petrol-sipping, WONDERFUL little Skoda, the car companies have failed. Glossy marketing and glib slogans aside – if you want to drive green, drive SMALL. ;)

  4. I hear all of you…when gas was at an all time high the american car companies started bragging about getting 30 to 34 mpg. I thought the same thing about the american public, are they really that stupid? I think they are! Check out the fuel economy of a 1992 Honda Civic DX….it can get up to 43mpg, and that was a car made in the early 90’s! American cars have not come a long way at all…they suck!

  5. VW Jetta Diesel, 1985 model,5 speed standard, never got less than 40 mpg, Canadian gallons, not rip-off Yankee Doodle small gallons though! Often got much better than 40 mpg, but over-all average for 450,000. miles was 53 mpg, including #2 stove oil, jet b, Crisco, Peanut oil, olive oil, scrap oil, and kerosene in the colder winter. Larger tiress, front and back for durability altered mileage recordings too, and a lot of lower speed, back-roads driving, coasting, and careful braking pushed numbers much higher, as high as 63 mpg one time! Used the car like a Jeep, and it never failed me! Give me a Hybrid Diesel/Electric plug-in the size of the Polo the next time! Dream cars, simply dream cars, In comparison, all my gas cars were a disappointing failure in engineering!

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