The hybrid vehicle market is about to heat up. Major car makers are expanding their hybrid offerings with new innovations and improvements, including greater fuel economy, all designed to help the environment. Toyota, Lexus, Ford and Honda all have announced major milestones over the past week.
Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. says the total combined Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicle sales in the U.S. now have topped the one-million mark, thanks to six hybrid vehicles including the top-selling Toyota Prius. The Prius is touted as the all-time worldwide leader in hybrid sales.
Cumulative worldwide sales of Toyota and Lexus hybrids have exceeded 1.7 million vehicles through January 2009. The car maker projects sales of one million gas-electric hybrids per year by early in the next decade with the launch of 10 new hybrid models between now and 2012.
Consumers can expect to see new standards for hybrid vehicle designs and technologies this spring, starting with the launch of the improved third-generation Toyota Prius. The new hybrid will offer an EPA-estimated fuel efficiency rating of 50 miles per gallon.
This will be followed in the summer with the launch of the second-generation 2010 Lexus RX 450h and the Lexus HS 250h. The all-new RX Hybrid will feature an updated version of the Lexus Hybrid Drive that will improve fuel economy by up to 20 percent with more horsepower than its predecessor. The HS 250h, the world’s first dedicated luxury hybrid vehicle, will be Lexus’ fourth hybrid and the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its lineup.
In the SUV arena, Ford Motor Company rolled out its 100,000th hybrid SUV March 10 at the Kansas City assembly plant. Focused on advanced powertrain technologies that deliver greater fuel efficiency, the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner are touted as the most fuel-efficient hybrid SUVs at 34-mpg city driving.
Ford also announced it is doubling its production of hybrid vehicles this year with the introduction of the 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids, which are claimed as the most fuel-efficient midsize sedans at 41-mpg city driving. In addition, the car maker recently launched an electrification plan to bring pure battery-electric vehicles, next-generation hybrids and a plug-in hybrid to market by 2012.
Recent studies show that many Americans are likely to purchase a hybrid vehicle within the three years, but say hybrids are too costly. Honda hopes to change this perception with a newly designed and lower cost hybrid.
American Honda Motor Co. has announced the most affordable hybrid in the U.S. – under $20,000 – with the launch of its all-new Honda Insight LX in March 2009. Honda says the cost of entry for the new hybrid vehicle is within reach of a new car-shopping consumer audience.
The five-passenger, five-door dedicated hybrid vehicle is powered by an Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, delivering an EPA-estimated city/highway fuel economy rating of 40/43 mpg. The Insight features the Ecological Drive Assist System (Eco Assist) that is designed to help optimize fuel efficiency.
Honda will also offer a premium version of the Insight. The Insight EX, with a MSRP of $21,300, adds a host of new features ranging from Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) to the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System.