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EurotaxGlass’s: Automakers are Approaching the European Hybrids Market from the Wrong Direction

EurotaxGlass’s, a leading supplier of automotive business intelligence in Europe, asserts that the market for gasoline-electric hybrids in Europe will only flourish if vehicle manufacturers launch greater numbers of vehicles into volume-selling segments where buyers are more concerned about fuel efficiency.

The company says the prospect of lower fuel consumption will be vital in boosting sales of hybrids, helping to repay manufacturer investment in the technology.

However, a significant proportion of the hybrid vehicles currently scheduled for production are large luxury cars or SUVs— niche models where sales volumes are limited or in decline, and where concerns about fuel efficiency and emissions are less paramount for the typical buyer.

At the Geneva auto show, for example, Toyota highlighted its new Lexus GS 450h luxury hybrid sedan. (Earlier post.) The company will introduce its flagship LS 460h hybrid at the upcoming New York auto show.

Although diesels now command a sizeable proportion of sales in the large luxury and SUV sectors, owners of such cars know their fuel consumption lags well behind that of many vehicles in most other segments.

EurotaxGlass’s argues that carmakers must take full account of the differences in the US and European marketplaces to maximize all opportunities for hybrid.

There is clearly now some real momentum behind hybrid product development, with new manufacturer partnerships being forged and a host of new concept vehicles being unveiled over the past six months. However, the hybrid models being prepared for production indicate a heavy bias towards the tastes of the US market, with large SUVs and luxury cars often being favored. This may make sense in a market where diesel isn’t a viable alternative, but in Europe these vehicles will not sell in significant numbers.

—Jeff Paterson, Senior Car Editor at EurotaxGlass’s

EurotaxGlass’s suggests prestige, volume and budget-brand carmakers alike should target the higher-selling lower-medium and upper-medium segments in particular, where competitively priced hybrid power would present a tempting alternative to diesel for significant numbers of both fleet and retail buyers.

Those purchasing cars in these segments are amongst the most sensitive to vehicle fuel economy and purchase price. The selling price of an upper-medium car may be less than with a large SUV or luxury saloon, but the carmaker would almost certainly have the opportunity to sell them in far greater numbers.

Comments

lensovet

bam!
way to hit the point right on the dot. timely posting, mike. thanks.

Richard

How shortsighted can you be. If the original owner doesn't make up the cost of the technology, the subsequent buyer will still be willing to pay for a more fuel efficient second hand car. As most buyers of cars are not "new" buyers, let us not forget that a fuel efficient car is still worth more than a not so fuel efficient one. Let's concentrate on resale value as another selling point.

Harvey D

The new Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima Hybrids seem to fit well within their recommendation. From a strict fuel saving point of view, heavier hybrids (4 x 4, pick-ups, delivery trucks and buses), reprensent a better potential if they are driven in stop and go city traffic. This may be true for most delivery trucks and city buses but large pick-ups and 4 x 4 have no business on city streets. Such recommendation should be applied with discernment.

Adrian Akau

Very well written. American cars may be somewhat like American fast food; they may look good but do harm in the long run. Applying hybrid technology to luxury cars is an attempt to booster the ego and to maintain the image of power. It has nothing to do with the realistic situation that the continuance of big motors on big cars, even if assisted by hybrid systems, mean wasted fuel and high emissions. It would be an error of judgement on the part of car manufacturers to expect that mistakes of this nature should be promoted.

adrianakau@aol.com

Schwa

The total flop of the Honda Accord Hybrid (even in the US) is evidence enough that the market for the over-powered hybrid is a marginal niche. People who want that kind of power tend to be the least concerned with the fuel economy, and unfortunately that's not going to change for a quite a while. Making electric vehicles makes much more sense, at least from a sales volume point of view. At least manufacturers are eventually forced to deal with the reality of the market, how many mistakes they make in the meantime is the question and newcomers may have the advantage as they can learn from the others' mistakes.

Andrey

Hybrid cars are better than regular in every respect, not only in fuel efficiency. These include: brisk throttle responce, good stand-still and rolling acceleration, high low-end torque, quite cruising, possible AWD with inherent stability control, longer engine life, super long brake life,plug-in capability, no overheating and no worry to run out of gas in traffic jam, etc. And this is not counting free entrance to London centre and permission to drive in bus lines in Los-Angeles.

Rafael Seidl

Most carmakers still see hybrids as a defensive strategy: they facilitate continued access to the California market and, limit loss of market share to Toyota. Current traction battery technology is still very expensive and most of the big carmakers (GM, Ford, VW etc.) simply have not had Toyota's deep pockets to cross-subsidize R&D and the ramp-up to medium-volume hybrid production.

Moreover, there are other ways to achieve an aggregate 15-20% reduction in gasoline consumption: reducing engine and drivetrain friction, improved crankcase stiffness (reduces oil flow through main bearings), water pump deactivation, fully variable valve trains (to reduce throttling losses), variable geometry turbochargers, valve shrouding, spray-guided gasoline direct injection, cylinder deactivation, Atkinson/Miller intake valve detuning, downsizing + long gearing, dual clutch transmissions and, vehicle weight reduction (to name a few in no particular order).

All of these can be used in conjunction with hybrids (battery/ultracap/hydraulic/pneumatic) and, some already are, e.g. in the Prius. The more important point is that many (not all!) incremental engine and drivetrain fuel economy enhancements can be applied to a far larger number of vehicles more quickly and economically, at reduced risk. And all that small fry really adds up.

What you apply is mostly a function of how expensive the gasoline is expected to be during the car's lifetime, though sales & marketing overheads and resale value also factor into the decision.

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