A tale of two green-car markets

The Japanese market is apparently embracing more eco-friendly hybrid vehicles at a much greater rate than the US, largely due to a more wide-ranging incentive scheme. The sale stats don’t lie, as we can see (I’m including the hyperlinks from the original article to make it easier to follow up on what’s going on):

In Japan, where hybrids are now tax-free and gas prices are 78 percent higher than in the U.S., a hybrid (Honda’s Insight) topped the charts for vehicle sales for the first time ever in April. And Toyota’s gen-3 Prius, which took the crown last month, is doing well enough that the company has reportedly brought back overtime and started recruiting workers from other Toyota factories to keep up with booming demand. Chief Prius engineer Akihiko Otsuka told the New York Times recently that he expects hybrid sales to “push up the entire car market.”

Yet a Honda executive has just announced that the company expects to miss its sales targets for the Insight by as much as 33 percent this year in the U.S. That’s partly because of relatively low gas prices — they’ve dropped as much as 35 percent in the last year. As J.D. Power and Associates powertrain analyst Mike Omotoso told us recently, “When gas is cheap we tend to buy large vehicles without too much concern for the environment.”

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