Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Hybrids By The Hour
One of the biggest problems with introducing advanced technology vehicles such as those powered by fuel cells or hybrid drivetrains is overcoming natural consumer uncertainty about something so new and unproven. A new trend in green rental cars may help to lower this hurdle by making the initial alternative vehicle purchase period hours, instead of years.

My own first experience in an electric car amazed me. Nothing had prepared me for the acceleration, and I think I'd have bought one then and there if they had been more widely available and the infrastructure more convenient. On a smaller scale, I'd never have purchased satellite radio for my car without having first experienced it as a free option in several rental cars. After a couple of drives I was hooked to the point that when I recently went car shopping, there were no models on my list that didn't include satellite radio as an option.

Driving a biodiesel-powered car around Maui may sell on novelty value, but in the process customers will dispel some of their myths and preconceptions about these vehicles. While targeting rental fleets has traditionally been a high-volume, low-profit option for carmakers, they would be smart to use an entirely different set of criteria with regard to advanced technology cars. Rental car companies could be their best form of advertising and mass exposure.

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