When SUVs first emerged, SUV owners were often seen as fit soccer moms or footloose outdoor enthusiasts. But over the years, perceptions changed. Now we know (wink) that SUV owners are really terrorist-supporting defilers of the earth.
Might the public's perception of hybrid owners be going through a similar (although less dramatic) evolution?
With politicians lobbing so many perks their way, hybrid owners were bound to develop the kind of "teacher's pet" reputation that invites a backlash. Recently, South Park took aim at the smugness of hybrid owners. Virginia carpoolers have been griping about hybrids in the carpool lane for a while and now this:
- When California allowed solo occupants of hybrid cars to use carpool lanes last year, many thought they were merging onto a narrow strip of car culture heaven.
But increasingly, hybrid owners say they feel like the victims of road rage.
Carpoolers accuse them of driving too slowly in order to maximize their fuel efficiency, and of clogging diamond lanes that were once clear.
Hybrid motorists even have a term for the ill will: "Prius backlash."
"There's a mentality out there that we're a bunch of liberal hippies or we're trying to make some statement on the environment," said Travis Ruff, a real estate agent from Newbury Park who drives a Toyota Prius. "People are a lot less friendly than when I drove a Mercedes."