Hybrid and electric cars aside, Ford, Chrysler and GM have recently unleashed new lines of smaller vehicles. According to MotorTrend.com, compacts will soon reach the popularity level of midsize cars in the U.S. as they did in Western Europe.
We may not want to admit it, but expensive gas gets as much attention as Kim Kardashian’s love life.
But with the advent of new technologies, things are not as black and white as environmentalists would like them to be. As gas prices rise, hybrid and electric models become more appealing, yet even still, the price tag is generally quite a bit higher than standard models. And, as Edmunds.com notes, “the menu of gas-powered vehicles that achieve more than 30 miles per gallon and even 40 miles per gallon is vastly expanding.”
Who will fair the best in this market is hard to decide. Figures from 2011 show that import cars are no longer “all the rage.” American cars are finally getting a grasp on the car market. Honda and Toyota are still facing the consequences of natural disasters, and German cars have only recently jumped on the “green train.”
Hybrid sales will continue to rise, but an economic slump has made people think critically about overall cost benefits. Edmunds.com recommends looking at reasons other than financial ones, as the “the economic equation is iffy and constantly shifting.” Juan Flores, director of vehicle valuation for Kelley Blue Book argues that, “beyond a certain fuel price point, the higher the fuel prices the lower the benefits of alternative fuel vehicles.” Flores points to the higher premium paid for these types of cars.
Another issue is that alternative energy vehicles are not always made for convenience. The Nissan Leaf is the first all-electric car released to the consumer market, and boasts 73 miles per charge. But its limited range may turn off those with even the greenest heart. It’s really only meant for short trips.
“Style Ain’t Nothing”: The Ultimate “Tipping” Factor
Consumers are not only looking at energy-efficiency or environmental impact. Accenture found in a recent survey that “just over a third of respondents named higher gas prices as a reason to purchase a greener car.” As we all suspected, it’s all about “the look.” Style is everything. Even environmentalists have a sense of style when it comes to car choices. Cars have to have an ”organic” and revolutionary look in order to take over the car market.
Take the Nissan Leaf: Typically, drivers take pride in their grills. As AutoTrends.org reported, the Ford Ensel’s “horse collar grille was compared with a toilet seat,” while the original Subaru B9 Tribeca’s triangular grille “never caught on and was panned by critics.” But the Leaf has no grill; it only has a hatch that opens for access to its recharging port. However, designers have used this to create a “swept back” look that doubles as a means to cut aerodynamic drag.
The Tesla Roadster has likewise turned a lot of heads, despite its outrageous price. Why? Quite simply, it looks like a racecar. With its curvy combination of retro and futuristic motifs, it has had a “pivotal role” in getting people interested in electric cars, … even those who can’t afford them.
Advertising: Connecting Clients and Cars
Alternative energy vehicles can also be extremely difficult to market. The Volt faced this problem before it even hit the market. All of its commercials still left the consumer with questions, and without a personal connection to the car. “Powertrains” and other advanced technical features are not common knowledge to most consumers.
As a 100 percent electric car, the Nissan Leaf avoids this with the concise, catchy tagline: “The Leaf runs on electricity, saving the planet from global warming.” That, and a cute polar bear, are enough to sell a car that’s still inconvenient at best.
Americans can be optimistic about the future of the green car industry. Whether people go for the hybrids or stay true to energy-efficient gas-powered cars will ultimately depend on one overlying factor: if the car isn’t sexy, it isn’t going to sell.
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“They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong.” -President Ronald Reagan. Brendan Pringle is a regular contributor to Green Living Press.