by George Adcock
There's something for everyone in the local world of wheels there are those who consider their cars nothing more than the means to their destination, literally just a machine to carry them from Point A to Point B. Transportation is merely a utilitarian experience for them – no frills, no thrills.
And that”s okay.
But I would argue they”re in the minority, especially here in Gwinnett, where car lovers can readily indulge their sense of personal style, exercise their eccentricity, and fulfill their need for speed and power – often achieving all three at once.
Historically, Gwinnett car buyers have had a taste for the unique, the unusual, and even the exotic. In today”s market, the soccer moms and tennis aficionados still want to style around town in their Cadillac Escalades, Ford Excursions, GMC Yukons and other large SUVs, but those "traditional" vehicles are now often taking a back seat to the more industrial-strength eye candy: Land Rovers and Hummers.
When the price of gas gets factored into the equation, hybrids fuel the interest of conscientious consumers, particularly the hybrid SUVs like the Ford and Toyota offerings.
For younger buyers and empty nesters, performance cars tend to push their internal tachometers to the red line. They may drool over the $156,000+ Ford GT while pacifying their lust with the more affordable Mustang GT or Mazda RX8. Meanwhile, more affluent buyers – bless their hearts – may even opt for a Jaguar, Mercedes SL Class, Audi, or a legendary Porsche (and let”s face it, there IS no substitute).
But the vehicles that are flying off the lots faster than the dealers can get them in are the hybrids.
The Commute Solution
"I have no Accords or Civic hybrids on the lot right now," says Honda Mall of Georgia sales manager Phillip Ackerman. "If I had 100 Civic hybrids I could sell them today."
The Civic is his hottest selling hybrid, offering Civic thrift with hybrid gas mileage. Those who want more luxury opt for the Accord hybrid, a $30,000 automobile but with hybrid economy on the road.
For those who want even more luxury in a hybrid, Lexus offers the RX 400h, starting around $46,000, which is available in a part-time all-wheel-drive version. Mike Shafer, new car sales manager at Hennessy Lexus of Gwinnett, says the car has been well received, in part because its 272 hp exceeds that of the straight gas version.
"Many of the buyers are those interested in the latest technology, and others are interested in the environmentally friendly aspects," he says.
Other dealerships report similar excitement among buyers over hybrid technology, which is not surprising in this metropolitan area, where drivers suffer some of longest commutes in the nation. Drivers are desperate to cut that gas bill. Hybrids let them drive without a passenger in the HOV lanes as well.
At Atlanta Toyota, the Prius is the number one seller. Bernard Adesina says they can”t keep them on the lot either.
The Prius is what”s termed a true "full hybrid." That means the electric motor alone can power it under light loads.
For instance, when coming to a stop, the gas engine is turned off and the car is under electric power only (see "How Hybrids Work"). The Lexus hybrid is also a full hybrid.
As is Toyota”s SUV hybrid, the Highlander, one of only two SUV entries currently in this game, though more are coming. Adesina says Atlanta Toyota has sold more than 40 Highlanders to date.
The other SUV in the field is the Ford Escape, a full hybrid. Marshall Starcher, sales manager at Gwinnett Place Ford also complains he can”t get enough to meet the demand.
Starcher says most of his buyers are city dwellers in their 40s, stable with excellent credit. Other dealers report similar demo