Shifting gear pays off/1999 Ford Taurus to 2005 Toyota Prius:

Discussion in 'Toyota' started by tigerhonaker, May 22, 2006.

  1. tigerhonaker

    tigerhonaker Platinum Contributor


    By Allison M. Heinrichs
    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    Jim Johns loved his 1999 Ford Taurus, but he chose a 2005 Toyota Prius as his new car a couple years ago.
    Now, with gasoline prices hovering at $3 a gallon and no relief in sight, Johns couldn't be happier.

    "It's fun to be ahead of the curve," said Johns, of Bethel Park. "I like (the Prius) better than the Taurus. And that's not to say I didn't like my Taurus -- it was the best car I'd ever owned."

    Hybrids combine an electric motor -- powered by a battery -- and a gasoline engine. The gasoline engine provides most of the power, while the electric motor gives an additional boost for accelerating or climbing hills so that a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine can be used.

    The electric motor charges itself by converting otherwise wasted energy from braking into electricity.

    When hybrids were introduced in 1999, business and consumer organizations cautioned that the additional cost would be too high to offset fuel savings. Hybrids usually cost about $7,000 more than a conventional car.

    Consumer Reports acknowledged last month, however, that high gasoline prices and federal tax credits are beginning to make hybrid vehicles a sound purchase for people who plan to hang on to them for more than five years.

    Depending on the type of hybrid, the IRS says it expects tax credits to range from $2,000 to more than $3,000 for 2006 model vehicles.

    The biggest concerns that people have about hybrids are that repairs will be difficult and costly and that the battery packs won't have long enough lifespans, according to a study released last week by automotive information company Kelly Blue Book.

    Past warnings about hybrids depreciating in value faster aren't holding up in the world of $3 a gallon gasoline, said Kelly Blue Book spokeswoman Robyn Eckard. A recent study showed that with rising gas prices, the value of used hybrids has gone up about $300.

    "When gas prices are high, like they are today, the depreciation is minimal," Eckard said. "We're actually seeing increases in the values of used hybrids."

    Sales of new hybrid vehicles more than doubled last year, according to R. L. Polk & Co., which collects automotive data.

    Last year, there were 199,148 new registrations of hybrids vehicles in the United States -- or more than 1 percent of the total. Pennsylvania ranks eighth in the nation, with almost 7,000 hybrids registered in 2005.

    In March 2005, the state began giving $500 rebates to buyers of hybrids. The program has been "overwhelmingly popular," according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which funds the program. About a month ago, all of the program's $1.5 million was distributed; another $1 million is expected to become available in July.

    "It's certainly an incentive for the development of the (hybrid) technology to move forward, which would reduce emissions and hopefully end up creating jobs here, too," said DEP spokesman Charlie Young. "If we can make a strong case for a market here, then perhaps there will be manufacturing here."

    At a free test-drive event hosted two years ago by Squirrel Hill-based Group Against Smog and Pollution, Johns test-drove a Toyota Prius and loved it. About seven months later, he parked his own sleek, black Prius in his garage -- next to his wife's 2003 Honda Civic hybrid.

    Johns now displays his Prius at the annual hybrid display and test-drive event on the North Shore, which was held Saturday.

    He proudly demonstrates the keyless ignition and the computer system that displays his 50-miles-per-gallon gas mileage to curious onlookers, often taking friends on spins through the neighborhood.

    "They were not too much different for a normal vehicle," said John Reynolds, of Connellsville, a friend of the couple, who has ridden in the Honda and Toyota hybrids. "The thing that caught me was that they were just much quieter."

    Johns and his wife, Jan Necessary, fill their 11-gallon tanks about once a month, but concede that because they also use public transportation, neither vehicle is driven that much. Between the two of them, they drive about 1,000 miles each month.

    The electric motor doesn't seem to hurt performance. At different times, the Prius has hauled an 8-foot Christmas tree, 800 pounds of sand and four sets of golf clubs.

    The couple, though, has complaints about the cars -- the gas tanks are too small; the Prius' design creates some blind spots; and both cars are so quiet that pedestrians don't hear the electric engines and tend to walk in front of them.

    Both cars have warranties on the hybrid parts for about eight years, Johns said. Once those warranties expire, though, hybrid owners might be stuck paying higher repair costs at dealerships, which typically charge more than independent shops, said Bob Rodriguez, manager of special testing programs at the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.

    "The problem isn't ... so much that the hybrids are more expensive to fix, but that you're going to have a harder time finding an independent shop that has the training," Rodriguez said.

    Michael Paolucci, general manager of Shadyside Honda, said he hasn't heard any complaints about hybrid Civics, but if they need repairs, they would have to go to a Honda dealership.

    Necessary said she isn't concerned about repairs and -- judging from the increase in the number of hybrids she sees on the roads -- doesn't believe other buyers are too worried, either.

    "It used to be we had the only one around here," Necessary said. "Now we go out, and there's usually at least one more in the parking lot."
  2. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi Terry:

    ___I wish I would have found that as it’s an excellent headliner! Mind if I gussy it up a bit and take it to the home page?

    ___Good Luck

  3. tigerhonaker

    tigerhonaker Platinum Contributor


    Please do, :D

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