Prius Envy? Honda to Battle Toyota on Green Performance, and Looks...


The term 'Prius envy' didn't crop up in our guide on How to Green Your Sex Life, but maybe it should have. Actually, it has little to do with sex, but a lot to do with the perceived sexiness of your hybrid. According to a report in Newsweek, many hybrid Honda customers have been leaving the company in droves because their cars just don't look 'hybrid' enough:

"Peter Kessner, a devout environmentalist, bought a Honda Civic hybrid four years ago to show everyone that he wants to save the planet. The only problem: no one noticed, since, other than the hybrid badge on the trunk, it looked like a regular Civic. So he traded it in for a Toyota Prius. Suddenly, strangers began stopping him on the street to ask about his hybrid, with its space-age styling and miserly mileage. "That's a big part of why I bought the Prius," says the Floral Park, N.Y., retiree. "It opens up conversations, and I push my theory that we've got to do our best to conserve." The Honda, on the other hand, didn't deliver what Kessner craved: green street cred. "If I'm driving a hybrid," he says, "I want people to know it.""

While it might be tempting to shun such considerations as mere aesthetics, there is no doubt that almost any move towards greener living becomes more effective if it is visible to others — ultimately we are looking for a societal shift if we want to reverse the potentially disastrous twin threats of climate change and resource depletion that we currently face.

The good news, however, is that Honda appear to have learned from their mistakes, and they are said to be dreaming up a hybrid that will have the best fuel economy figures on the road by the time it arrives in 2009 (they are also rumored to be bringing a 62 MPG diesel to the US by 2010). The aim is apparently not only to beat the Prius in terms of both gas mileage and price but, significantly, to also design a car that looks more like a hybrid, tackling the issue of Prius envy head on:

"This time Honda won't make the mistake of wrapping its hybrid in the sheet metal of its everyday cars: instead, analysts expect the new Honda will have the larva styling the Prius pioneered—which now embodies the green-car look. Honda will also outdo the $23,000, 60mpg Prius on price and mileage in hopes of attracting 100,000 buyers a year—three times what the hybrid Civic sells."

We would, of course, love to see Prius envy being replaced by bicycle envy. However, we do feel that the move towards greener cars can only be a good thing, and for this move to happen fast, we need highly visible, and desirable, cars that set the standard for more responsible motoring. ::Newsweek::via site visit::

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