Organization will push for the existing and new incentives for users of alternative fuel cars.
David Shepardson - Detroit News Aug. 17, 2006
Hybrids are beginning to make a dent in the laws of the land.
WASHINGTON - Hybrid vehicle owners have it pretty good: tax credits, unlimited access to car pool lanes and free parking in some places.
Now they'll have their own lobbying group in Washington.
Taking a page from the SUV Owners of America, a new group calling itself "Hybrid Owners of America" will kick off its lobbying efforts today to "advocate for the interests of the more than half a million Americans who already own hybrid gas-electric cars and other vehicles."
Hybrid Owners of America spokeswoman Ailis Aaron Wolf said the group is independent from the auto industry.
"Hybrid Owners of America will strive to be a true voice for owners of gas-electric hybrid cars and other highly fuel-efficient vehicles," she said. "HOA will track and defend existing hybrid purchase incentives as well as advocating for new incentive arrangements."
Some major companies also are offering perks to hybrid owners. For the past year, Google - which is adding 1,000 jobs in Ann Arbor - has said it would give employees $5,000 if they purchase a hybrid that gets at least 45 miles to the gallon. Bank of America Corp. said in June it will reimburse $3,000 to 21,000 eligible employees who buy any new hybrid vehicle.
Overall, the 500,000 hybrids are vastly outnumbered on U.S. roads by 31.5 million SUVs.
Toyota Motor Corp. produces the top selling Prius and Honda Motor Co. makes the Civic and Accord hybrids. Toyota and its luxury nameplate, Lexus, plans to build hybrid versions of nearly all of its vehicles.
Ford Motor Co. produces the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrid SUVs and General Motors Corp. is building the Saturn Vue Green Line, also a hybrid SUV.
"Could Detroit possibly still not be getting the message? Even as Toyota and other automakers respond to the public's clear appetite for increased fuel efficiency, U.S. automakers are actually introducing heavier and heavier cars that gulp gasoline like it still only costs $1.50 a gallon," the group said on its Web site Wednesday.
The hybrid owners group is founded by the Newton, Mass.-based Civil Society Institute, a group that lobbies for higher fuel economy requirements. Its Web site is www.40mpg.org
The site champions the goal to raise the mileage standard for all U.S. vehicles to 40 mpg, a target the auto industry says is currently unworkable.
Ron DeFore, who is spokesman for the SUV Owners of America, said the organization opposes special perks for hybrid owners.
"We're not against hybrids. We just think all of the benefits for hybrid owners discriminate against people who want to drive SUVs," DeFore said.