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Hybrid Cars: Chariots of the New “Metrospiritual” - Save the Environment and Save Money With Tax Credits

April 14th 2006

Hybrid Cars: Chariots of the New “Metrospiritual” - Save the Environment and Save Money With Tax Credits

Honda Hybrid

Recent media buzz has suggested that people looking to buy a hybrid car to save money would be better off putting change in their piggybanks. But what these pundits don’t seem to understand is that it’s not their purse-strings that motivate the hybrid buyer; it’s their heartstrings.
 
In the world of marketing, hybrid cars appeal to a specific demographic category known as LOHAS: Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. A more trendy term for this group of Whole Foods-shopping, Prius-driving, tea-drinking, yoga-practicing men and women is “metrospiritual.” It’s a $227 billion market segment that strives to make sure its buying habits jibe with its values—and it’s growing.
 
Car manufacturers recognize the buying power of this group, as evidenced by the increasing number of hybrid models being launched or planned. Toyota alone says it will introduce 10 new models in the next five years, and J.D. Power and Associates predicts that there will be as many as 52 hybrid models on sale in the next six years.

 

The insurance industry is taking notice, too. Travelers personal lines offers a 10% discount on auto insurance for hybrid car drivers and has launched http://www.hybridtravelers.com  to give hybrid drivers a place to share their stories, keep up on other state and federal incentives for hybrid car ownership and, while they’re at it, register to win the metrospiritual’s favorite toy: an iPod nano.

“Hybrid drivers tend to fall into a ‘preferred group.’ Our program is about rewarding that group,” says Greg Toczydlowski, senior vice president of product management for Travelers. “And considering the growth potential of the marketplace, we want to be well positioned to meet its needs.”

Meeting that market’s need means understanding that it’s not all about the money; driving a hybrid car puts people firmly in a community just as plainly as does driving a Hummer. A hybrid car says, “I care about the environment. I care about decreasing oil and gas dependency. And yes, I will be having organic wine with dinner tonight.”

 

New York is getting on board, too. It recently announced a new "Green Pass" discount plan for motorists who use E-ZPass and drive the most fuel-efficient hybrid cars. The program is part of Gov. George Pataki’s Strategic Energy Action Plan, which also includes a Long Island pilot program called "Clean Pass." That program allows hybrid vehicle drivers to use the faster HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) expressway lane.

The fact that in most cases the savings at the gas pump don’t appear to outweigh the higher sticker price of hybrid vehicles only serves to bolster that sense of community. The hybrid owner has made a choice to value saving the environment over saving money and if they get to feel a little smug about it as they pull in to a free municipal parking spot reserved for hybrids, well, why not?

 
 
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By Mela Kucera, APR
Account Supervisor
Imre Communications — capturing the imagination.
305 Washington Avenue
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