Here’s John Tierney:
Judgment Day has arrived in California, but not exactly as prophesied. The ones sitting on the right-hand side are the sinners. They’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic while the righteous fly past them in the far left lanes. Those freeway lanes used to be reserved for car pools, but they’ve just been opened to a new group: those of us virtuous enough to drive the right hybrids. I’m not a good enough person yet to own a hybrid, but I’ve been passing for one. I rented a Toyota Prius for the pleasure of cruising the car pool lanes and parking free at meters, another perk available here in Los Angeles. I’ve enjoyed it all, especially the envious looks from guys in S.U.V.’s, and I can understand why hybrid drivers in other states and cities are clamoring for similar privileges. But even if these new privileges put more fuel-efficient cars on the road, I’m afraid the net effect will be dirtier air and more gasoline consumption.
Marketing consultant Art Spinella notes that hybrid buyers in focus groups fixate on the Prius “because of its unique design and will candidly admit that they expect to receive some acclaim from friends, relatives, co-workers for their concern about the environment and/or fuel efficiency.”