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Saturday, Mar 2, 2024

Hybrid Cars Now Available In All Shapes and Sizes

Since Toyota debuted the Prius at the turn of the millennium, the brand has come to be used almost synonymously with hybrid vehicles. Seven years later, however, hybrids are available from a slew of automakers. “Ford has the Escape. It’s one of those smaller sport utility types. Honda’s got a couple of them, a Civic and an Accord, both hybrids. Chevrolet has a pick up truck. GM has a hybrid,” said Tom Rosdahl, professor of automotive service at Pierce College. “Toyota is probably the leader, and, of course, the Lexus, which is a high-dollar Toyota. Nissan is coming out with a hybrid. It’s kind of like, right now, it’s the thing.” At the Los Angeles Auto Show, to start in mid-November, an award will even be given out to the “Green Car of the Year,” in recognition that consumer demand for the cars is growing exponentially. “People love them,” said Tawny Arnaud, vice president of sales for Galpin Motors. “They’re becoming more and more of a popular trend.” Galpin Motors features arguably the widest array of the cars,from the Ford Escape to the Mercury Mariner to the Honda Civic hybrids, in the San Fernando Valley. Galpin also has Saturn and Mazda hybrids. Arnaud said he believes that the cars are increasing in popularity because people feel good knowing that the vehicle they’re driving will be both economical and play a role in reducing pollution. “They know they’re doing their part to keep California green,” he said. But are all hybrids essentially the same? Arnaud discussed the differences and similarities between the hybrids found at his dealerships. “The Ford products,the Escape, the Mariner and the Mazda,are all somewhat similar. There’s some differences in them, but, basically, they’re the same,” he said. “What’s nice about the Mazda SUV is that people have a lot more room than they normally have in a hybrid vehicle.” If a smaller hybrid is what you’re looking for, the Honda Civic is the way to go, according to Arnaud. He was quick to add, though, “They’re really all nice. The hybrids we’ve been selling, they’re just not problem cars.” Hybrids, in the past criticized for being too futuristic-looking, now come in a plethora of colors and designs. Arnaud said that the hybrids in Galpin’s collection are virtually indistinguishable in appearance from their standard counterparts. “I think it’s such a good looking car,” Arnaud said of the Escape. “Somebody could be driving [one of our hybrids] and unless you looked where the name says hybrid, you wouldn’t know the difference,” he said. While the total cost of the cars depends on what the consumer equips them with, Arnaud said that, at Galpin, a Honda hybrid starts in the low $20,000 range, with the Ford products starting in the mid-$20,000 range. Californians who sit in stop-and-go traffic may be getting the most bang for their buck when buying a hybrid, according to Pierce College’s Rosdahl. “There’s advantages and disadvantages to hybrids,” he said. “The advantage is for commuters. You get into your little Honda Civic and go to work. When you’re in traffic, the engine shuts off. You’re not polluting the atmosphere.” On the other hand, Rosdahl argued, “The hybrid Civic and the non-hybrid Civic cruising 65 mph on the freeway,there’s no advantage with that. The hybrid is primarily for stop-and-go traffic.” There’s also the fact that not just any technician can repair a hybrid. If you have a hybrid, you might not have a choice but to take it to a dealer, according to Al Jimenez, an automotive instructor at North Hollywood High School with nearly a decade of industry experience. “These cars are new,” he said. “You can’t really take them anywhere else but the dealer.” That said, Jimenez stressed that, at the dealer, people get what they pay for. “At the dealer, technicians are very advanced, highly skilled,” he said. “They don’t just hire anybody. We’re constantly going to school. These cars,the more advanced they get, we have to go back and learn. If somebody is used to going to a mom-and-pop shop, it’s going to affect them if people make the wrong repairs to these vehicles.” Arnaud, in contrast, doesn’t believe that repairing hybrids should be much cause for worry. “As there are more and more [hybrid] cars, there are more and more people certified to do that,” he said. “It does take a skill level you have to be at. I don’t see that as a problem. Quite truthfully, they [hybrids] don’t need very much work.” Los Angeles Auto Show Nov. 16-25 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. General admission is $10. Registration: www.LAautoshow.com

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