Is There A Future For Performance Hybrids

Some products are too good to be true; an oven that can cook a turkey in 3 hours but is the size of a microwave. A pill that promises to burn weight faster than you can pack it on. Many of these products fall victim to their own folly. Consumers are savvy bunch. At least we like to think so.

However sometimes a product actually does deliver the goods.Lexus plans to introduce several models over the next few years that showcase hybrids as more than just fuel misers, but rather as solid performance vehicles. An example of this is the 2007 Lexus LS 600h.

With an all-new 5.0L V8 and a high output electric motor, the All-Wheel-Drive LS 600h will produce 430hp when it hits showrooms in the spring of 2007. It should also qualify for a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) rating, which means it'll be about 70% cleaner than the next closest competitor. Are consumers ready to accept a hybrid as a viable performance option?.

The initial answer is absolutely. Upon further examination that may not be the case.yet. Look at the Honda Accord Hybrid. With 253hp (SAE Net), it's capable of doing 0-60mph in 7 seconds. It's the most powerful Accord ever but sales have been slow.

In fact, Honda may have to reduce production.At the same time, 4- cylinder hybrids such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Prius have far less power but sales have increased. Sure this is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

The Civic and Accord are in different segments, but it's surprising nonetheless. Perhaps Honda should have produced the Accord hybrid with the 4-cylinder engine instead of the V6. This would've reduced performance but it would have increased fuel efficiency.

It's a strategy that Toyota is following with the 2007 Camry Hybrid.Perhaps hybrid buyers are willing to shed some horsepower for the absolute best fuel economy. Surely this is a small group but it'll get larger as fuel prices increase.

As long as a car has respectable performance it seems that consumers want technological advances to go into finding more ways to save fuel than increase horsepower.Or perhaps customers are just skeptical of anything that promises the best of both worlds. But why wouldn't someone want great fuel efficiency and a lot of power? Today, most hybrid owners aren't concerned with having class leading horsepower. They want class leading fuel mileage.

Should Lexus be worried? I don't think so. Unlike the Accord hybrid, Lexus won't have any immediate hybrid competitors. Secondly, luxury car buyers put a lot emphasis on performance.The new Lexus LS 600h may be looked upon as a performance sedan that just happens to be a hybrid, instead of the other way around.As hybrids continue to evolve beyond a novelty, it's clear that North American buyers continue to focus on the numbers. We just don't know for sure what numbers they'll find more important.

Are North American car buyers ready to have it all?.

.Peter Johnson is the chief writer for http://www. you signed up for your free subscription to The Owners Manual? http://www.all-about-car-selection.


By: Peter J.H. Johnson

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