Could Hype Sell An Inferior Hybrid? - Ford Fusion versus Toyota Camry

Someone must have a really good press agent to get this one so much attention.

According to a U.S. News and World Report review, two automotive publications have published comparisons of the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid against the Toyota Prius and Camry Hybrid, with Ford winning both.
USA Today stated that the Ford drives better than the Prius, and that when the gasoline kicked in to help the electric on the Fusion, there was no vibration or shimmying. Now I'm not a professional test driver, so I realize I won't notice certain things the way a professional would. But I always rent a Prius when a rental car is necessary, and I've never felt any kind of vibration or shimmying. And I suspect your average driver would not likely notice something like this either, unless it was a real hassle. Looking to Prius owners I know, I've never heard that complaint.

And the Car and Driver article did little more than boast the Fusion's 34-mpg fuel economy, and call it a "game changer" that's fun to drive.

To be honest, after reading the headline, "Ford Fusion Hybrid Tops Camry, Prius in Comparisons," I was pretty excited. Certainly any proof that a Detroit automaker upped the ante in the race for fuel efficiency would be extraordinarily good news. But unfortunately, this so-called positive press for the Fusion Hybrid turned out to be nothing more than another sad attempt to convince the consumer that Detroit can compete successfully when it comes to better fuel economy.

Don't get me wrong. GM, Ford and Chrysler all have some amazing technology in the works. And it is that technology that many are banking on to keep these guys in business in the future. But today, they continue to fall short.

This notion that the Ford Fusion drives better, as the USA Today article indicated, may be true. But the Prius isn't a slouch, and really drives no differently than your average, mid-sized car. So admittedly I'd be curious to know specifically how this vehicle "drives better." Still, that doesn't really matter much when you're trying to attract the fuel-conscious crowd. For them, it's mostly about fuel economy.

While the Ford Fusion delivers 34 miles per gallon, the 2009 Prius delivers 46 miles per gallon. And the price tag on the Prius is $6,000 less than the $28,000 you'll have to shell out for the Fusion.

My real concern here, however, is that consumers will look at these advertisements disguised as news articles, and believe that 34 miles per gallon is an acceptable fuel economy. It is not. Not when the 2010 Prius is expected to get 50 mpg, and the 2010 Honda Insight gets 41 mpg. Not when Chinese automaker, BYD (HK:1211) is currently pumping out a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that runs 62 miles in all-electric mode before it kicks into regular hybrid mode. That vehicle is expected to arrive in the U.S. in about two to three years, and retails around $20,000. And not when even the smaller start-ups like Phoenix Motorcars and Tesla have already produced electric vehicles that deliver in excess of 100 miles on one electric charge.

Let's just hope the next round of fuel-efficient vehicles from Detroit boasts the state-of-the-art technology they're capable of delivering. It'll get them a lot further than more press releases and suspect reviews.

More Hyp-brid posts from TreeHugger.
Ford Fusion Hybrid Qualifies for Maximum Tax Credit of $3400 ...
Superbowl Ads: Ford Escape Hybrid & Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid & 2009 Next Generation Prius
LA Auto Show: Toyota Camry Hybrid is Green Car of the Year ...

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