AAA reported over the weekend that gasoline prices hit a record high, averaging $3.50 a gallon for regular unleaded. Sean McGuire, sales manager at the Courtesy Toyota car dealership in Tampa Florida, said that 39 Priuses were sold during the past 60 days. "Any time the gas prices go up, we see more people coming in," he said. "Pretty much, Priuses are sold even before they get here." Toyota makes a Camry hybrid and Highlander hybrid, but nothing sells like a Prius, he added.
Priuses range in price from about $22,000 to $38,000. The Prius leads the way among hybrid sales, the R.L. Polk survey showed, with 179,178 new registrations in 2007. That's 51 percent of the total.
Hybrid sedans, SUVs and sports cars run the gamut of styles and prices, from the Venturi Fetish, available at $400,000, to the Lexus LS 600h L, which costs more than $100,000, to the Toyota Yaris at about $12,000. Many automakers now have hybrids on the market. There are Saturns, Hondas, Chevrolets, Fords, BMWs and Mercedes.
So, who is buying hybrids? Celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Sting and Leonardo DiCaprio help push the market. According to surveys monitored by hybridcars.com, the average hybrid car owner generally has a slightly higher income, about $100,000 a year on average.
Hybrid drivers are a few years older as well, with an average age of about 50. A J.D. Power and Associates 2007 survey shows that 2 percent of hybrid owners are 24 or younger; 29 percent are 45 to 54; and 33 percent are 55 or older. A 2007 Scarborough Research survey adds to the mystique, hybridcars .com says hybrid owners:
•Are twice as likely to say they go skiing, hiking or practice yoga than nonhybrid owners.
•Eat more organic food and drink more decaffeinated coffee than the general population.
•Say they are savvy when it comes to computers, mobile phones and digital electronics.
•Lean, politically, away from the right, with 14 percent Republican, 38 percent Democrat and 34 percent independent.
Among these other celebrities is the top-earning supermodel Giselle Bundchen who drives a gorgeous hybrid. And then there is Hayden Panetierre who had promised to buy the Prius hybrid a year ago, but is till zooming around in her Cayenne S!