Air pollution has fallen by about 50 percent since 1970. And, because today’s cars are about 98 percent cleaner than cars built in the 60s, pollution will continue to decline. The rise of Partial Zero Emission Vehicles (PZEVs) means even greater improvement. Still, nothing says you care like a hybrid, especially the Prius: Fans of the Prius include Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, while the brains behind Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have used their Prius purchases to deflect any suggestion that they are becoming fat cats. And auto manufacturers might have gotten it wrong when they tried to make hybrids look like regular cars: A recent article in the Washington Post noted that sales of Honda’s Civic hybrid have been much weaker than for the Prius, even though the Civic’s technology is similar and it is almost as fuel-efficient as the Prius. What’s the difference? ‘The Prius is a fashion statement’, said Art Spinella, a consultant with CNW Marketing Research, who surveys car-buying trends. ‘It looks different. Other people know the driver is driving a hybrid vehicle. It clearly makes a bigger statement about the person than does the Civic, which basically looks like a Civic.’ Spinella added that hybrid buyers in focus groups gravitate to the Prius ‘because of its unique design and will candidly admit they expect to receive some acclaim from friends, relatives, co-workers for their concern about the environment and/or fuel efficiency’. Green is the new black, it seems.
Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.