Hybrids Gaining Ground Among Celebs, But Still Pricey for the Rest of Us

Thanks to lobbying by intrepid enviro group Global Green USA, several high-profile celebrities arrived at the Academy Awards this year not in stretch limos, but in diminutive hybrid Toyota Priuses. Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, Charlize Theron, Robin Williams, and Sting all pulled up to the red carpet in loaner hybrids, leading some culture wags to speculate that tank-size, nine-mile-per-gallon Hummers are losing the cachet battle to their leaner, more efficient rivals. But consumer advocates warn that the penny-pinching hoi polloi might want to pause before jumping on the hybrid bandwagon. As a purely economic matter, hybrids don’t come out in the black. While their superior gas mileage does save on ever-rising gasoline costs, the mileage claims from Toyota and Honda are rarely matched in actual performance, and since hybrids still cost considerably more than their conventional counterparts, it would take many years to recoup the price difference.