With the Civic, Honda has positioned itself aggressively, price-wise. The Accord is the only other Honda entry currently among compact hybrids. However, the car maker has not been reticent about launching a popular-price, mass-market hybrid “before the end of the decade”. The entry may well be Fit subcompact.
The Nissan Altima and Saturn Aura Green Line round out the cast of hybrid sedans currently in showrooms. As to prospective entries, Chevy will go with a hybrid Malibu later in the year, GM looks to revive the Vue Green Line with a distinctly re-designed version to hit showrooms late in 2007, and Hyundai is hopeful about rolling out the Accent in 2009. Further down the road, Ford has disclosed the Five Hundred and Fusion models, a hybrid version of the luxury Lexus LS600 is in the works, Mercury will weigh in with the Milan and Hyundai is preparing the Sonata.
The five models making up the Van/SUV class – Toyota’s Highlander SUV and Lexus RX-400h SUV, a Vue Green Line SUV, the Ford Escape, and Mercury Mariner – will face competition from three more domestics before yearend. These are the Chevrolet Tahoe, Dodge Durango and GMC Yukon. The Porsche Cayenne and the Toyota Sienna Minivan are both just around the corner.
In the near term, five more hybrid versions of domestic makes will compete for a fair share of this body class (the Cadillac Escalade, Chrysler Aspen, Dodge Durango, Ford Edge Lincoln MKX), as will two each from Europe (Audi Q7, Volkswagen Touareg) and Japan (Honda Pilot, Lincoln MKX, Mazda Tribute).
Chances are, the SUV/Van class will be the primary driver of hybrid vehicle sales. For all the hype about celebrities and young, trendy “greenies” opting for hybrids, J.D. Power revealed in its industry marketing review for 2007 that the average age of hybrid owners is closer to fifty. One-third of hybrid owners are, in fact, 55 years or older. Granting that such owners are more discerning, and take more trips with completed families, the resulting emphasis on roomy interiors and functionality is likely to make them check out SUV’s and vans first.
Though there are presently no hybrid pick-up trucks available to individual buyers, GM is expected to try again next year with full-size versions of the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra.
Counting new model launches later in 2007 and by next year, the hybrid category could count at least 11 sedan-class and 14 SUV/van models. The dominance of the latter will continue owing to a higher-income and older owner demographic.