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Out of Our Minds
Monday, June 20, 2005 9:49 AM
The Cost of Being Better
Kevin Salwen on Making a Difference

This weekend, I headed to my local Toyota dealer to do my part for the world. I was ready to trade in our family wagon for a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. At 33 miles to the gallon in city driving, the Highlander was finally the vehicle that could burn less fuel AND that could handle our family with 2 kids and 2 dogs.

I looked at the sticker -- $41,000 and swallowed hard. The lower-cost plain, old Highlanders aren't in yet, just the souped-up, leathered, moonroofed, GPS-systemed, sound-system juiced versions. Then came the real shocker: The dealer asking for an additional $2,500 -- which he labeled a 'Father's Day Special,' as if I was supposed to drop to my knees in appreciation. Total it all up and I left the dealership with a proposal for a new Highlander with a cost of $48,000!!!

Lest you think it's just the dealer's markup, consider this: The Highlander Hybrid engine adds $6,400 to the cost compared with an similarly equipment gasoline-only engine. Welcome to the world of being better. Want to not exploit kids making apparel in Third World countries? Prepare to pay a bit more. Ditto for non-modified foods, environmentally correct home cleaners and a host of other products.

In the end, we'll buy the Highlander; I'm hunting for a better deal now. It's partly because we want to leave less of a footprint on the environment. But it's more that we want to make a statement that companies must keep making hybrids -- and people need to keep buying and driving them.

I just wish it wasn't this hard.


Amy - 6/23/2005 10:43:22 AM
In April I entered the world of the hybrid automobile. My Ford Escape is WONDERFUL and meets my needs as a driver/consumer. I wanted an SUV, but one that would be kind to the earth. With my Escape I have a car that not only creates less pollution (due to gas) but also noise - when I run on a battery the darn thing is SILENT! Hybrids pay off in the long run, which runs counter to our 'keeping up with the jones' culture. If you plan to keep your hybrid for a longer period of time the money you save on gas will even out the sticker shock you feel now. I'm reminded of the quote, 'to whom much is given, much is expected.' It is true, nobody ever said doing the right thing is easy, but if the people who CAN do the right thing don't do it, where will we be?
Rahul K. Banta - 6/23/2005 12:17:32 AM
And are you sure that the battery will last for a long time? I have heard that hybrids need new batteries every 6 to 8 years. This will add much to the cost (if you still own it then, or in lower resale value.)

I think hybrids are a bridge, and not even that great a bridge. What are the odds that people will feel that hybrids are 'saving' then gas and then drive more, negating some of the fuel and environmental savings?
Parke - 6/21/2005 10:47:15 AM
Our family of four rides in a reliable compact, several years old, and just got 40 miles per gallon on a recent road trip. Are you sure trading in a working automobile for a new hybrid is best on environmental merit?
kurt - 6/21/2005 10:14:42 AM
the 2500 fee, is BS, it's a dealer markup, if vehicles are in high demand. dealer will try to charge this, it's negotiable.
and doesn't need to be paid.

the price tag is list, dealer cost is between 83 and 85% of list. that's negotiable.

there are often dealer incentive kickbacks where a dealer who moves lots of cars, gets a percent or so reduction per quarter. so the dealer cost basis is less.
options are negotiable.

one can order a car, ...
and get the features one desires only.

check out kelly blue book for cost charts, .... negotiation strategies.

i don't pay list, a few people do and a few get a much better price.

you're still around low 40's for this, in anycase.

good luck
sam - 6/20/2005 12:23:56 PM
Seems like we are not using the solutions we already have, according to the Friedman op-ed in the NYT over the weekend. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/17/opinion/17friedman.html?oref=login
There will not be a demand for a hybrid at 48k, not in any of the communities I am in, at least. Until someone makes the hybrid affordable for the average family, which 48k is way, way, way out of league for the average family, no one is going to buy it. The prices have to be the same otherwise no one is going to buy into it.
martin - 6/20/2005 12:01:34 PM
Ouch! I realize this may not help, but have you looked at the Ford Escape Hybrid? It's not a Toyota but Ford did license the technology from them. The engine technology is based on the first generation hybrid Toyota built whereas the new Highlander features the second.

It's hardly any comfort but folks I know in the auto industry say that we're still 4 - 8 years away from seeing a wide array of choices alternate fuel vehicles. So for now we're stuck with a few small sedans and three small SUVs.

Small comfort, but no one ever said doing the right thing is easier.


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