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Auto Dealers Are Skeptical About Fuel Efficient Hybrids

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On: Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 7:27PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

 Auto Dealers Are Skeptical About Fuel Efficient Hybrids

Recent federal fuel efficiency protocols announced by the Environmental Protection Agency were considered a major success by the Obama administration and automakers, but many new car dealers feel reluctant to make the transition to offering so many hybrids.

“With tight family budgets and a shaky job outlook, consumers want to maximize their transportation dollars, not pay more for redundant rules and an unnecessary bureaucracy,” said Ed Tonkin, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association. “Under these new mandates, the price of new cars and light trucks will rise significantly, meaning fewer Americans will be able to buy the new vehicles of their choice.”

Based on the new EPA regulations, the average fuel economy for cars is mandated to be no less than 37.8 MPG by 2016, while light trucks are expected to average 28.8MPG. Automakers are already beginning to design all types of new hybrids in greater numbers to meet the standards that the government has set.

The cost of developing more fuel-efficient cars and trucks is estimated at $52 billion. Officials project that the new hybrid vehicles would pose an average price increase of only $1,000 or less in the 2016 model year and that many consumers would earn back the cost in fuel savings over three years.

One group that has spoken out is Mercedes-Benz. Executives at Mercedes have talked about making a flagship S-class Mercedes Benz in a hybrid-only model, (no combustion engine will be developed). Mercedes Benz dealers feel that the transition will undermine the perception of the Mercedes brand all together.

The chairman of the Mercedes-Benz dealer board and a Charleston, SC, Mercedes dealer was quoted to have recently stated, "The most important thing in the American market—regardless of hybrid, lithium or electric cars—is that we Americans are different than any market and we are going to want those gasoline engines." Baker said the goal of S-Class drivers is “not gas mileage."

Although many U.S. Mercedes dealers feel that they will be unable to sell many of the luxury cars in hybrid models, the luxury market is filling up with new hybrids. Last year 10 percent of all Lexus models sold in the United States were hybrids.

Not all dealers are doubtful about the future of more hybrid vehicles; Adam Lee, President of Maine-based Lee Auto Malls, which consists of 20 dealerships selling domestic and foreign cars, said, “Today is a victory for American consumers and the auto industry.” Lee believes that higher fuel-efficiency standards will help the US economy—by manufacturing more US-built high MPG-cars. “Every day customers walk into my stores asking for the same thing—cars that go farther on a dollar.”

Lee feels that cars that get better fuel economy will be more in demand in the future. “My customers are already asking when will we see 50 miles per gallon."


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