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Hybrid sales suffering in down economy

March 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
As the economy continues its slide downward, it's taking auto sales with it. And that includes the gas-electric vehicles known as "hybrids." Hybrid sales have dropped nearly 30 percent during the first two months of the year compared to 2008, according to the auto-tracking group J.D. Power and Associates. The lower price of gas is among the reasons why hybrids sales are hitting the skids.

"People don't pay attention to the fact that gas is going to go back up, so they just think it's always going to be down, and they don't have to worry about it now," said motorist Roger Schlesinger.

One other factor is the price tag, one of the leading reasons for hybrids gathering dust on the lots. According to J.D. Power and Associates, the average hybrid premium is over $6,000, and not many consumers are willing to pay that much extra for fuel economy these days.

And when Eyewitness News talked to motorists and asked them if they would consider buying a hybrid, they said no, but it isn't because of the gas mileage. To them, "green" means having money in the bank just in case they lose their jobs.

"I think people are holding on to their cars because, you know, they'd rather make a repair or two and keep it running than have to go buy something new at this time," said motorist Jason Schlesinger. "It's just too expensive. Nobody wants to let go of any extra income they have at this moment."

Auto dealerships are hoping the tax credits in the Obama Administration's stimulus package for some 2010 hybrid models will stimulate more sales.

"The difference in price is $3,000," said Bert Boeckmann, Galpin Motors. "The tax credits you get off your taxes are $3,400, so you really end up saving a little bit of money buying a hybrid and you get all the advantages of a hybrid, which means you're going to pay a lot less in gasoline."

One Toyota dealership owner said he's hoping that people will become more secure in their own financial situation soon, so they'll feel even more confident about making a major purchase like a car.


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