People who are shopping for green and efficient cars have a number of choices on the market today.
Then again, it wasn’t so long ago that the fuel economy of a hybrid like the Prius was considered significantly better compared to vehicles with conventional gasoline engines. However, with all the advances in engine technology, that gap is rapidly closing.
Indeed, there are conventional drive train vehicles on the roads today with economy rivaling that of hybrids.
The question on the minds of many in the automotive industry: will higher efficiency gasoline engines push hybrids out of the market?
Of course, there is also the possibility that gasoline engines in hybrids will gain significant efficiency, meaning, mileage might go up for those vehicles as well.
"The advantages of hybrids are getting harder to justify," Booz & Co analyst Scott Corwin told The Detroit News. "It's the cost differential. Consumers are rational, and they understand the cost of ownership."
To be sure, hybrid sales are already declining in the US. Research firm LMC Automotive confirms hybrid sales were 2.2% of all US vehicle sales in 2011 - a definite loss from 2.4% in 2010.
A perfect example of how it is becoming difficult to justify a hybrid purchase? The Honda Civic, which gets 32 mpg while the Civic hybrid weighs in at 44 mpg. According to the EPA, the hybrid version of the car only saves a consumer $322 in fuel a year.
And with the extra cost to purchase the hybrid version, it would take six years to recover the extra money spent in terms of fuel savings - and most people don’t even hold onto a car for that long.
Another interesting fact? According to AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson, approximately 75% of customers ask about hybrids, but only 2.5% end up buying one.