— U.S. motorists were first introduced to gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles six years ago, but the honeymoon is still going strong, according to an influential consumer survey, as reported in the Detroit News.
The Toyota Prius, which features a gasoline-powered engine paired with a fuel-saving electric motor, won top marks in Consumer Reports
magazine's owner satisfaction survey. When the magazine asked owners if they would buy another Prius, 94 percent of 1,640 respondents said they would, beating out the 92 percent score achieved by the Lexus LS430 luxury sedan. Fewer than a dozen hybrid vehicles are available in the United States, the number will reach 38 by 2011, J.D. Power estimates. Annual sales of hybrid vehicles reached nearly 90,000 last year and is expected to top a half million within eight years, Power said. In April, Toyota will launch its second gas-electric vehicle -- the Lexus RX400h. Two months later, a hybrid version of the Highlander sport/utility vehicle will go on sale. The new models along with the Prius will push Toyota's total hybrid sales past 100,000 units, said Dave Hermance, a senior environmental engineer with Toyota USA. "We're already over the hump" in terms of overcoming consumer skepticism, Hermance said. General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group recently agreed to work together on developing hybrid technology. Later this year, Ford Motor Co. will launch its second hybrid vehicle — a Mercury Mariner, a companion to the Escape Hybrid SUV. Ford also will market three additional hybrid vehicles within three years.