Demand for Hybrids Exceeds Expectations

Demand for gas-electric hybrid vehicles has automakers scrambling to keep up. Ford’s new Escape hybrid SUV won’t go on sale until August, but already 30,000 people have expressed the desire to buy one via Ford’s website, whereas the company had planned to sell just 20,000 a year. Meanwhile, waiting lists for Toyota’s Prius are growing, prompting the company’s U.S. arm to request a substantial increase in manufacturing from the Japanese factory that produces the hybrids. Toyota’s initial goal was to sell 34,000 this year; it now expects to sell 50,000. Sales of the Prius last month were up 150 percent from the same time last year. In other happy news, sales of large, gas-guzzling SUVs — including the Hummer, the Cadillac Escalade, and the Ford Expedition — are down anywhere from 17 to 33 percent from this time last year. While many attribute these trends to high gas prices, the eternal optimists here at Grist credit a blossoming eco-consciousness among Americans. Our glass is half-full!