Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Toyota Hybrid MR-2

While GM is in Washington trying to beg another $100 Billion or so in "loans" and other handouts, Toyota and other Asian automakers are fighting the slump in auto sales in another way: by designing cars that people really want to buy and that are appropriate for new conditions....like an elegantly styled hybrid roadster that gets 60 MPG and has sports car acceleration, for less than $30,000.

Even a dedicated non-car owner and anti-auto activist could love this car. I salivated when I read about this thing.

At this point, the beauty pictured here, the Toyota MR2 Hybrid, is only speculation. However, it looks as though the company has the specifics pretty well nailed down and that the car is well beyond the concept stage, and could be rolled out in a couple of years. Toyota is considering reviving their old MR-2 as a "green" sports roadster that is based on the Prius technology, has an automatic transmission, will get up to 60 MPG (50MPG in the U.S.), and will go from 0-60 MPH in 7 seconds. A Toyota executive said that the targeted price point would be about $24,000.

We'll see if this car gets built. But there's no reason why it shouldn't be, given the proven ability of the Asian carmakers to put out exceptionally economic cars that are also beautiful and a joy to drive.

We have to wonder why General Motors or another American car maker is not building a car like this? Or the beautiful Honda Civic Hybrid? Instead, GM decided to kill the lovely EV1, its exciting electric car, after a half-hearted 3-year experiment during which they marketed the car on a very provisional basis in only two states. What might have transpired if the company had put as much effort and money into developing this car into a dependable vehicle, and marketing it across the country, as the company did with the dangerously overpowered muscle cars of the 60s or the gas-guzzling, overweight SUVs of the past two decades?

GM deserves to die merely for pushing that famous offense against basic decency, the Hummer, and so do the politicians who protected vehicles like this from being subject to the fuel mileage standards applicable to most cars marketed in this country. And if you're concerned about the loss of jobs and domestic manufacturing, consider that Toyota, Honda and other "foriegn" automakers are probably building more vehicles on our soil and employing more American workers at good wages than the old domestic manufacturers.

I still don't believe that widespread auto ownership will survive the ride down the other side of the peak of oil production, but a car like this is a great way to ride down the slope.

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