USA Today Continues to Hype Hybrids and Ignores the Downsides of Ownership

     Hybrid vehicles are all the rage these days.


     Even Paris Hilton is out promoting hybrid vehicles. “Tonight, I’m here,” said Hilton at BPM Magazine’s July party. “I came in a hybrid car because I think that’s the new way to go – to save energy and you know, save our earth from all this – you know, pollution, so, I don’t know, I think if everyone just takes the steps to do it will make a big difference.”


     The August 8 USA Today also promoted hybrids. An article written by Chris Woodyard emphasized how this new trend in “low-CO2 vehicles” is a good public relations ploy by automakers.


     “Thanks to (former vice president) Al Gore, people are becoming aware of this extra factor,” said Dominick Infante, a spokesman for Subaru, to USA Today. “It's becoming something people are wondering about.”


     And Woodyard also said it’s not only trendy but it’s practical, because government regulations are forcing automakers to “think green.”


     “It's not just good public relations,” wrote Woodyard. “Since the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the EPA can regulate greenhouse gases, General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler have joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of corporate executives calling for CO2 restrictions.”


     But one question Woodyard and much of the media have failed to pose is: how does the cost of owning a hybrid vehicle compare to the cost of owning a non-hybrid vehicle?


     According to data provided by Vicentric, a privately held automotive data compilation and analysis firm via Yahoo! Autos, over five years it is roughly 10 percent more expensive to own the 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid model over a similar non-hybrid model. That includes taking into account the lower fuel costs and tax incentives related to hybrid ownership.


     The hybrid version’s manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $22,600, while the non-hybrid is considerably less at $15,810.


     Woodyard also neglected to point out that although automakers are on the low-CO2  bandwagon, they haven’t been as quick to adopt measures to ensure these vehicles can be repaired at a low cost, should the need arise.


     An article posted recently on pointed out that the cost to repair the Toyota Prius battery system – integral to the hybrid – is very high.


     “I take it [a 2001 Toyota Prius] down and get it diagnosed, which turned out to be the main hybrid battery. Another $4,800 to get the system replaced,” said a Prius owner identified as Zachery in an article by Joe Benton on


     Often, many of the problems surrounding hybrid vehicles are ignored despite all the publicity they’re given. Recently the “NBC Nightly News” went as far as to suggest eco-friendly cars would be the salvation of the ailing Detroit economy.