The move to more fuel-efficient vehicles looks to be here to stay. At the Detroit auto show in 2010, there were no trucks or SUV debuts, and Stefan Sielaff, Audi’s chief designer, said, “I have a feeling that there is a paradigm shift.” Australia certainly requires such vehicles. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission stated that Australia would probably become ever more reliant on imports of refined fuel.
Worldwide, sales of hybrids will increase eightfold by 2018, according to the research firm, IHS Automotive. Pure electric vehicles, it added, could be only two-thirds as popular. They can run for only between 20 and 50 miles and have larger batteries. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation said that electric and hybrid cars would play an increasing role in the fuel industry within the next three decades, eventually becoming the dominant element.
Australia could become a centre of excellence for electric and hybrid vehicles. A government-sponsored plan, Automotive Australia 2020 – a Technological Roadmap, said that Australia had some strengths in the area but recommended 32 measures to secure the future of this aspect of the automotive industry.
Among these were the development of supercapacitors that store energy and more efficient and lightweight batteries and electric motors. The report predicted consolidation and restructuring of Australian companies involved and greater competition from low-cost producers such as Russia, India, Brazil and Thailand.
Volkswagen (VW) was initially reluctant to enter the market for cars using electric power, but will now deploy a “considerable” proportion of its $9.2bn annual budget in this area. It will launch a minimum of two high volume hybrids over the next few years. Its subsidiary, Porsche, will act similarly, so there will be sporty hybrids targeted at wealthier customers. VW’s electric car chief, Rudolf Krebs, said that hybrids were a trend that could not be reversed.
Australians have been less enamoured of hybrids than was foreseen. In 2012, Peter McGregor, Toyota’s Australian Divisional Manager, said sales had fallen short of expectations, but hoped the situation would improve due to a facelifted Prius, a $1,000 price cut for the Prius and the new Camry hybrid.
Hybrids, he said, were a vital component of the future of his company and the industry. The global marketing information company, JD Power, said that reductions in cost would be key to converting interest in hybrids into sales.
As reported by the Herald Sun, hybrids could already be benefiting from the trend. Glass’s Managing Director, Santo Amoddio, declared that hybrids were already selling more than twice as more to fleets than to private buyers but were now increasingly on the shopping lists of private buyers due to growing awareness and appreciation of their reliability. He saluted Toyota’s re-pricing of the Prius and Camry.
Research into the kind of person who buys a hybrid was reported by www.smartcompany.com.au. JD Power found, after interviewing more than 40,000 car owners, that people who purchase hybrids tend to be older, richer and more educated than the average car buyer: 54 years-old, university-educated and with above-average wealth.
They are also proud advocates of green vehicles all-too-keen to tell others of their benefits. Another study, this time by Mindset Media, discovered that hybrid drivers were free-thinking, spontaneous and creative.