Automakers Deliver on Hybrid Technology, But Too Often Inflate Cost with Luxury Options
WASHINGTON (January 28, 2010) — Many automakers are selling hybrid vehicles with significantly enhanced environmental performance and fuel economy at a reasonable cost, but too often they are inflating prices by including unnecessary luxury features, such as DVD players, keyless entry systems and leather interiors, according to a new “Hybrid Scorecard” guide from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
“Hybrids don’t have to be luxury vehicles,” said Don Anair, the senior vehicles analyst with UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program who oversaw the guide. “They should be within the reach of all Americans. Car buyers shouldn’t be forced to buy high-end bells and whistles when fuel economy and reducing emissions are their top priority.”
The popular 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid illustrate the problem with “forced features.” UCS’s scorecard gave both cars a high “hybrid value” rating. Both emit 31 percent less heat-trapping pollution than their base conventional models due to their use of hybrid drivetrains, each of which costs approximately $4,000. But both models come with forced features that cost nearly as much as their hybrid drivetrains. The Honda Civic Hybrid has more than $3,000 worth of forced features, while the Ford Fusion Hybrid includes nearly $4,000 worth.
By contrast, the 2010 Toyota Prius Hybrid has a very high hybrid value. It emits 44 percent less global warming pollution than its closest conventional counterpart, the Toyota Matrix, and its hybrid drivetrain costs a little more than $3,000. It comes with $1,600 worth of forced features.
The luxury Lexus LS 600h L hybrid is the worst offender. It comes with more than $17,000 in forced features compared with the conventional, base model Lexus LS 460L. The Honda Insight, conversely, has no forced features, delivers more than 40 miles per gallon, and emits relatively little global warming pollution. With a sticker price of less than $20,000, the Insight is one of the most affordable hybrids available.
Ford, General Motors, Honda and Toyota all sell models with high hybrid value ratings. Size was not an issue, since UCS awarded high ratings to vehicles ranging from compact cars to luxury sedans to full-sized SUVs. But “muscle” hybrids, such as the GMC Yukon Hybrid and Lexus LS 600h L, which emphasize power over increased mileage and reduced emissions, have much lower hybrid value.
“The good news for consumers is there are a lot of great hybrids out there,” Anair said. “But you can’t trust the hybrid label alone. You need to look at how much environmental performance you’re getting for your money.”
UCS’s Hybrid Scorecard also ranks models based on environmental performance alone—mainly how well they reduce smog-forming emissions and the heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming. The Prius scored a 9.8 out of a possible 10. The Honda Civic Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid tied for second with an identical environmental score of 7.8. Meanwhile, General Motors hybrids lagged far behind, largely due to their relatively poor smog-forming emissions controls.
UCS’s scorecard rated 31 hybrids, including two- and four-wheel drive models, manufactured by five automakers: Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Honda and Nissan. The scorecard provides a profile of each hybrid as well as an explanation of the methodology UCS used. It is hosted at www.HybridCenter.org, UCS’s Webby-award winning clearinghouse for hybrid news and information.