Payback, they say, is a bitch. In the July Motor Trend, Kim Reynolds checks the papers on one of its puppies:
Every time I observe somebody calculating a hybrid’s “payback miles” that is, its price premium (if you can figure that out) amortized by its mileage improvement I cringe. For those who need simple answers, I guess it’s hard to resist, but the tradeoffs embodied by these cars are more complex than simpleminded division. Let me flip the conversation: How many people figure out the payback cost effectiveness of a concert-quality sound system? A bigger engine? Carbon-ceramic brakes? Nobody. But for some reason, the word “hybrid” brings the calculators out.
It’s based, I think, on the assumption that no one would buy these automotive hair shirts were it not for the deep-seated desire to avoid gas stations. But would-be buyers do the same calculations for diesel vs. gas, and nobody does the math for the Toyota Prius line, which sells about 20,000 copies a month, accounting for around half the hybrid market in the States and which doesn’t have a nonhybrid version for comparison.
Then there are the oddballs like the Infiniti M35h and the late, lamented Honda Accord hybrid, which posted modest fuel-economy gains while being faster than their ordinary brethren. What’s the payback on zero to sixty in under six? Anyone?