Automakers Deliver on Hybrid Technology, But Too Often Inflate Cost with Luxury Options

For Immediate Release

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Elliott Negin
Media Director
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enegin@ucsusa.org

Automakers Deliver on Hybrid Technology, But Too Often Inflate Cost with Luxury Options

Union Of Concerned Scientists Rate Hybrid Performance

WASHINGTON - Many automakers are selling hybrid vehicles with significantly
enhanced environmental performance and fuel economy at a reasonable
cost, but too often they are inflating prices by including unnecessary
luxury features, such as DVD
players, keyless entry systems and leather interiors, according to a
new "Hybrid Scorecard" guide from the Union of Concerned Scientists
(UCS).

"Hybrids don't have
to be luxury vehicles," said Don Anair, the senior vehicles analyst
with UCS's Clean Vehicles Program who oversaw the guide. "They should
be within the reach of all Americans. Car buyers shouldn't be forced to
buy high-end bells and whistles when fuel economy and reducing
emissions are their top priority."

The popular 2010 Ford
Fusion Hybrid and 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid illustrate the problem with
"forced features." UCS's scorecard gave both cars a high "hybrid value"
rating. Both emit 31 percent less heat-trapping pollution than their
base conventional models due to their use of hybrid drivetrains, each
of which costs approximately $4,000. But both models come with forced
features that cost nearly as much as their hybrid drivetrains. The
Honda Civic Hybrid has more than $3,000 worth of forced features, while
the Ford Fusion Hybrid includes nearly $4,000 worth.

By contrast, the 2010
Toyota Prius Hybrid has a very high hybrid value. It emits 44 percent
less global warming pollution than its closest conventional
counterpart, the Toyota Matrix, and its hybrid drivetrain costs a
little more than $3,000. It comes with $1,600 worth of forced features.

The luxury Lexus LS
600h L hybrid is the worst offender. It comes with more than $17,000 in
forced features compared with the conventional, base model Lexus LS
460L. The Honda Insight, conversely, has no forced features, delivers
more than 40 miles per gallon, and emits relatively little global
warming pollution. With a sticker price of less than $20,000, the
Insight is one of the most affordable hybrids available.

Ford, General Motors, Honda and Toyota
all sell models with high hybrid value ratings. Size was not an issue,
since UCS awarded high ratings to vehicles ranging from compact cars to
luxury sedans to full-sized SUVs. But "muscle" hybrids, such as the GMC
Yukon Hybrid and Lexus LS 600h L, which emphasize power over increased
mileage and reduced emissions, have much lower hybrid value.

"The good news for
consumers is there are a lot of great hybrids out there," Anair said.
"But you can't trust the hybrid label alone. You need to look at how
much environmental performance you're getting for your money."

UCS's Hybrid
Scorecard also ranks models based on environmental performance
alone-mainly how well they reduce smog-forming emissions and the
heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming. The Prius scored a
9.8 out of a possible 10. The Honda Civic Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid
and Ford Fusion Hybrid tied for second with an identical environmental
score of 7.8.  Meanwhile, General Motors hybrids lagged far behind,
largely due to their relatively poor smog-forming emissions controls.

UCS's scorecard rated
31 hybrids, including two- and four-wheel drive models, manufactured by
five automakers: Ford, General Motors, Toyota,
Honda and Nissan. The scorecard provides a profile of each hybrid as
well as an explanation of the methodology UCS used. It is hosted at www.HybridCenter.org, UCS's Webby-award winning clearinghouse for hybrid news and information.

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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