Hybrid No Longer King? Japan’s Industry Insiders Vote Skyactiv

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Toyota’s Prius has long been king of the hill when it comes to what the Japanese refer to as “Eco Cars”. The Eponymous hybrid has been leading sales rankings for a long time now, and that has even held true despite the disappearance of major tax incentives promoting these kinds of cars in the fall of 2010.

However, a survey for the Japanese magazine Nikkei Trendy by research group SC-Abeam Consulting of 500 people involved in vehicle manufacturing, parts supply or sales has found a significant shift from pure economy and environmental friendliness to the more practical concern of cost. The survey asked these 500 respondents to choose from a pool of 24 hybrid and fuel-efficient gasoline engine cars. No EVs were included in the survey pool.

Nikkei Trendy Magazine October 2011

For example, the Prius is in second place, but followed closely by the Daihatsu e:S (pronounced “Ees”). As I have blogged before, the new e:S is the most fuel-efficient kei car on the market, according to this report, able to achieve 32KM per liter. Although the Prius is rated at 38KM per liter, the thing is that the e:S achieves its frugal performance with a regular ICE set up, resulting in a list price of 800,000 Yen, which is about 1/3 of a typical Prius.

So which model leads the rankings? The Prius Alpha, perhaps? No. How about the Fit Shuttle Hybrid? No, the car attracting the most consumer interest isn’t a hybrid at all.

It’s the new Mazda Demio Skyactiv. At 30km per liter, the 1.3 liter Skyactiv is just as frugal as the Honda Fit Hybrid, and only very slightly shy of the Prius Alpha’s 31KM per liter. On the other hand, it uses a traditional internal combustion engine without the extra complexity of a hybrid system. With a list price of 1.4 million Yen, it is 190,000 Yen cheaper than the base Fit Hybrid.

As you can see in the rankings below, the Demio is well ahead of the pack.

Ranking Votes Model KM / L
1 269 Mazda Demio Skyactiv 30
2 170 Toyota Prius 38
3 147 Daihatsu e:S 32
4 111 Toyota Prius Alpha 31
5 55 Honda Fit Shuttle Hybrid 30
6 37 Lexus CT200h 34
7 35 Honda CR-Z 25
8 29 Fit Hybrid 30
9 25 Nissan Fuga Hybrid 19
10 22 VW Polo TSI 20
10 22 Fiat 500 Twin Air 21.5

Although they have had a global reputation as early adopters of new technology and gadgets, the Japanese have been living in depressed economic times since the early 90s and the latest round of contraction followed by March’s earthquake has made the Japanese consumer particularly conservative. As such it is hard for your average Japanese to justify the extra cost of a complex hybrid system when they can get similar levels of performance from a more traditional set up.

In order to justify their higher prices, hybrid cars and other alternative technology cars of the future are going to have to offer a lot more bang for your Yen to differentiate themselves from this new wave of efficient ICE cars.

Also, with the current talk of an extended double-dip recession in the works, I would not be surprised if a similar attitude did not also percolate through to other markets round the world. Automakers watch out – expensive tech is not going to trump the simple yet efficient solution any time soon.

Source: Nikkei Trendy (Japanese)

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