Last week, The Wall Street Journal ran a special car section exploring, among other things, alternative fuels, car recycling and the coming global traffic jams as the number of cars in service worldwide hits 1 billion by 2020. It also had an article on hybrids, stating that hybrid buyers tend huddle in blue (Democrat) states while hybrids are a rarity in red (Republican) places like Texas. To prove the point, the writer interviewed Dallas resident Randal Wright, a guy who hails from a Midland oil family and drives a Prius, Toyota's trendy hybrid. The article claims the Prius is a rare sight in Texas and Wright adds that Texans are embarrassed to drive them.
Really? I sure have seen quite a few of these eco-billboards on the road. I called the sales managers at three Toyota dealerships--Dallas, Richardson, Plano--to see if there's any truth to the Texas Prius-phobia. All said they sell every single Prius they can get their hands on. The Dallas dealership said that Prius sales have slowed down (nationally Prius sales are down 23 percent) over the last few months, but that's only because he can't wrench enough of them from Toyota's paws. Of course, the Prius mystique is far more pose struck by those afflicted with acute eco-vanity than it is anything environmentally beneficial (which is why in a recent episode of South Park the car was renamed the Pious). The huge batteries, which will most likely have to be replaced and disposed of at least once over the life of the car, are highly toxic. And really, all the Prius does is lower the miles-per-gallon fleet average for Toyota so that under U.S. fuel-efficiency rules it can sell more of those new gas-guzzling, highly profitable Tundra pickups that will soon be rolling off the line in San Antonio. Ain't it great to be Texan? --Mark Stuertz