"I would like to get more hybrids out of our system because I do think it's something that is here to stay," William Clay Ford Jr., chairman and chief executive of Ford Motor, told reporters in Detroit on Aug. 23. Last fall, Ford introduced a hybrid version of its Escape sport utility vehicle, the first of several hybrids planned.No kidding! And note that Ford has leased its hybrid technology from Toyota---no R&D costs for them. The only good news on the pork-ridden government front is that California is going to make a distinction between hybrids based on their environmental quality:
At the same time, the energy bill signed by President Bush on Aug. 8 effectively gave a break to American manufacturers by extending what could be a tax credit of as much as $3,400 per car to purchasers of the first 60,000 hybrids sold by a company. The credit phases out after that. Toyota sold more than 60,000 hybrids in the first six months of this year, so the tax law seems intended to help General Motors and Ford.
The new tax law "seems to benefit those who haven't done anything in the area of hybrids until now," Christopher Richter, a CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets auto analyst, said in Tokyo. "And it seems to penalize those who have been pioneers."
In early August, California regulators started to distinguish between fuel-efficient hybrids and "muscle" hybrids, the high-powered versions that save little gasoline. Of the seven hybrid models now on sale in the United States, owners of the Honda Civic, Honda Insight and Toyota Prius can qualify for decals allowing them to drive alone, rather than with two or more passengers, in highway commuter lanes. That reward is not extended to four hybrids not rated as exceptional energy savers: Honda Accord, Ford Escape, Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX 400h.