Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=116971
Story Retrieval Date: 5/25/2013 1:40:14 AM CST
Take a glance around the 2009 Chicago Auto Show. Many of the cars offered this year are smaller, more economical and energy-savvy vehicles, stimulated by a renewed emphasis on affordable and efficient transportation.
But will consumers buy it?
Anne Montesanto, of Mundelein, was prompted to take a closer look at hybrid offerings while she and her husband shopped for a vehicle at the show because of her desire for an efficient vehicle.
As she took a close look at a hybrid Camry by Toyota Motor Corp., Montesanto said that she thought fuel efficient vehicles are one good way to reduce dependency on foreign oil from the Middle East.
“Our generation is very concerned with fuel efficiency, and I hope young people are too,” Montesanto, 66, said.
Last year Toyota sold 241,405 hybrid units, including Toyota and Lexus brands. Hybrids fared comparatively well, as Toyota's overall sales were down 15.7 percent from the prior year, but hybrids were down only 12.7 percent from 275,779 the previous year, said Sona Iliffe-Moon, a spokeswoman for Toyota.
Frank Pintozzi, of Inverness, who eyed a hybrid Camry with his wife Sherry, said that the right combination of price, mileage, and size would create a winning vehicle in his mind.
He said he was attracted to Toyota’s offerings, as well as the Insight hybrid from Honda Motor Co. Ltd.
Under President Obama’s plan proposed Jan. 26, automakers would have until 2011 to meet new fuel-efficiency requirements and would eventually be required to increase efficiency by 40 percent to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020.
"It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil, while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs," said President Obama.
Jana Hartline, an environmental communications manager for Toyota, predicted an expansion of current fuel initiatives, further advances in hydrogen powered vehicles, and advances in battery technology.
“When new alternative energy sources are introduced, they push the industry forward, and are better for everyone,” Hartline said.
Other attendees at the auto show who were in the market to buy a vehicle emphasized the importance of environmental concerns.
As Algonquin resident Jean Vaughn-Krieble focused her attention on a Lexus hybrid, she said that serviceability, style and energy efficiency are among her considerations when purchasing a new vehicle.
“The only downside is that I can’t fit my golf clubs into a smaller car!” Vaughn-Krieble said.
She attended the show with Ilene Gasner, who said that although she wasn't in the market for a new vehicle, she has heard about new offerings in fuel technology, and was especially interested in battery powered vehicles.
Gasner, a Huntley resident, said that before she could make a decision about buying an alternative fuel vehicle, she would have to learn more about the details of the technology.
One company hoping to use its display to do just that was General Motors Corp., offering an elaborate, educational display about the Chevrolet Volt, its first extended-range vehicle, intended for commuters. The car, which will be available in late 2010, produces zero fuel emissions up to a range of 40 miles, then uses a gasoline-powered, range-extending engine to provide electric power past 40 miles.
Carolyn Grant Normandin, manager of product communications at General Motors, said that the Volt is powered by a much more powerful version of the same lithium battery that is used in cell phones.
GM also offered ethanol-powered vehicles, which create less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels.
Right now, E85 ethanol, which is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, is available at 1,952 fuel stations around the country, according to E85prices.com. Normandin predicted that in the future, the ratio will be switched, to 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent fossil fuels.
This year’s show features more than 1,000 cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles, and concept cars, including many fuel-efficient vehicles. The Chicago Auto Show runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 13-21 and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Feb. 22, at McCormick Place in Chicago.