LIMA – Industry experts say electric and hybrid vehicles are the way of the future for the next generation of motorists.
And while that vision may indeed be accurate, car dealerships in Lima are seeing a reluctance on the part of consumers to embrace the technology of the future.
“We are not really noticing an increase in interest (from the buying public) in hybrid or electric vehicles,” said Blake Cole, new car manager at Reineke Ford in Lima. “But if gas prices keep going up, I do look for that interest to grow.”
Cole recalled that when gas prices spiked in 2008 or 2009, prospective new and used car buyers did show greater interest in the fuel-friendly automotive alternatives.
While Ford Motor Company produces and markets the Fusion Energy, a fully-electric vehicle, Cole said the dealership on Greely Chapel Road currently has none of those particular models in stock. The demand, he said, simply doesn’t warrant it. But hybrid vehicles are available.
“We typically have five to 10 Ford Fusion hybrid vehicles in stock at any one time, but they haven’t been attracting a lot of interest, either. We really have to sell them.”
The selling point for electric and hybrid vehicles, Cole said, is just what one might imagine: reduced fuel costs. The Fusion hybrids typically get up to 45 miles per gallon, and with the addition of a self-charging battery that powers the vehicle when necessary, motorists can travel up to 700 miles on a single tank of gas.
Cole said the Reineke dealership has “done pretty well” selling total electric cars in the past couple of years, “but this year we just haven’t had any to sell” due to the company’s cutback in production levels.
Vince Downing, general manager at Tom Ahl Family of Dealerships in Lima, said he expects the sale of next generation autos to steadily increase.
“We see some people asking about hybrid or electric vehicles, but not as much as you’d think. But I feel we are seeing the demand increase somewhat as the government keeps pushing for more electric cars.”
Downing said the dealership currently has a limited number of hybrid options — such as the Chevrolet Volt — on car lots around town.
Eric Martin, general manager at Allan Nott Toyota in Lima, said there are few common denominators when it comes to the “typical” consumer looking to purchase a hybrid vehicle.
“It’s very random. We’ve had 70-year-olds who are on their third Prius and millennials who are buying their first hybrid vehicle,” Martin said. Fuel savings is one reason to buy a hybrid vehicle, he said, but not the only one.
“Actually, everything about a hybrid is cheaper to own and maintain, mostly because the engine doesn’t run as often” as does a gasoline-powered motor, said Martin.
He said the dealership on Allentown Road sold eight hybrids during the first three weeks of June, ranging from Prius, Camry and Rav4 models on the Toyota side and Clarity, Accord and Insight models from Honda.
“Honda is telling us that their goal by 2020 is that 30 percent of their North American sales will be electrified vehicles,” Martin added.
But while some parts of the country seem to be embracing the new technology — Martin said Prius is the top-selling car in California, for instance — that same excitement level is not currently being seen in the Midwest.
“It seems we’re not as interested in the ecology as everyone else, but hybrid and electric vehicles are definitely where we’re headed.”