— Hybrid vehicles could capture 5 percent of the U.S. market within five years, according to the CEO of AutoNation Inc., according to Automotive News
on January 10.Mike Jackson, who heads the nation's largest publicly traded dealership group, said the price of gasoline largely will determine hybrid sales in the next few years. But the technology has proven itself, he said. "Last year and the year before, a lot of people felt hybrid technology was a tree-hugging fad," Jackson said. "Well, that debate is over. It's a transforming technology." Jackson said U.S. consumers bought about 80,000 hybrid vehicles last year. He predicted that total will rise to as much as 800,000 vehicles by 2010. He said AutoNation dealerships are seeing "tremendous demand" among buyers for such vehicles as the Lexus RX 400h and the Ford Escape Hybrid. "These are highly educated, high-income people," Jackson said. "These opinion makers are clearly saying we're willing to pay a price premium for this innovation for super-clean air, this big step forward in fuel efficiency." For automakers, he said, the question has become how to bring hybrid technology into their business plans.