AM Online

Forecourt focus: The benefit of a hybrid

Car manufacturers reckon they’ll have sold petrol-electric vehicles in the hundreds of thousands in Europe by the end of this decade.

A bold claim when you think that petrol-electric hybrids have struggled to make inroads in the UK.

Appetite for them outside London – where owners can register for a full discount on the congestion charge – is limited, but recent research by Honda has revealed that the car-buying public doesn’t know enough about them.

We’ve had petrol-electric hybrid cars in the UK since 2000. But only recently has there been evidence of money spent by carmakers marketing these vehicles to UK consumers.

Toyota and Lexus have recently advertised the Prius and RX400h on TV, but the ads have focused on the technology and not what the customer stands to gain in reduced fuel bills and other ownership savings.

Mention complex technology to punters and they immediately think of what could go wrong. But it’s likely they don’t know that hybrid parts have long warranties to encourage consumer confidence.

It looks like hybrids are here to stay in the medium- to long-term. We need to learn about the benefits of owning them – if we don’t already know – and communicate that message effectively to the used car buyer.

Let me begin by congratulating the 200 or so Honda Insight owners in the UK who will no longer pay vehicle excise duty on their cars following the announcement made in the recent Budget. How many people, I wonder, know that owning an Insight comes with this benefit?

Drivers in London are beginning to wake up to the fact that driving a hybrid could save them more than £2,000 per year in congestion charges. A driver of the new Lexus GS450h executive saloon will pay roughly the same in fuel costs as the driver of a 2.0-litre petrol Ford Mondeo.

Show buyers how much they can save in pound note terms and they should suddenly become much more interested.

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