John Gardner
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

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June 6, 2008
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Glenwood Springs: Hybrid sales rise with gas prices

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado " Doug Flentge is no different from anyone else. He cringes at the price of a gallon of gasoline. He just does it a little less often than he used to after purchasing a Toyota Camry hybrid last October.

"I don't know about savings wise," he admitted. "But the fill-up rate is a lot less than it used to be."

Flentge said that he and his wife both drove SUVs before they purchased the Camry hybrid, which operates on both an internal combustion gasoline-powered engine and a battery powered motor. His wife drove a Honda Pilot that got about 21 miles per gallon Flentge says, while he drove a Toyota Land Cruiser that only got about 12 mpg. They used to fill up the Honda Pilot about once every four to five days, but now, they fill the Camry about once every 10 to 12 days, he said.

"As far as gas, it's double compared to what we were driving," Flentge said. "(The Camry) has almost zero emissions, double the gas mileage and it's a car rather than an SUV. And she's been exceptionally happy with the vehicle."

So they traded the Honda Pilot for the new Camry, and they've changed their driving habits using the hybrid for all the "running around," Flentge said.

"It's pretty significant savings for us," Flentge said.

The Flentge's story isn't that out-of-the-ordinary. As gas prices rise, so does people's interests in more fuel-efficient ways of transportation.

"Overall effects of gas prices are that people are looking more toward smaller vehicles and less at the larger ones," said Bighorn Toyota general sales manager Chet Garling.

Full-sized truck sales of the Toyota Tundra and the full-sized SUV Toyota Sequoia have "dropped off" a little bit, Garling said, but with the increase in sales of the three hybrid options Toyota offers in the Prius, Camry and the compact SUV Highlander, sales are pretty consistent for the dealership overall.

Garling says that Bighorn Toyota currently has about 20 people on a waiting list for a Prius. They could be waiting as long as six months before they get behind the wheel.

"When the Prius first came out in 2000, until about '05, we ran a waiting list," Garling said. "In recent years we were able to keep up pretty well, but now we've seen an interest again."

"This is not a surprise," he said. "I've got a lot of small vehicles in stock. We are selling more small vehicles and less of the larger full-sized trucks."

But that doesn't mean that the truck business is dead. Steve Nilsson, the general manager of Glenwood Springs Ford, said full-sized truck sales remain good for them.

"Full-sized truck sales are still strong with those that use them for work," Nilsson said.

"Those vehicles are still vital with the construction industry and the oil and gas industry the way it is around here."

Sales manager at Vista Honda, Jason Landers, said that while they've seen an increase in interest from people wanting hybrids, like the Honda Civic, they are still selling less-fuel-efficient vehicles as well.

"The thing with gas mileage is that if you've got kids, or tow a boat, your not going to be able to buy one of the smaller vehicles," Landers said. "You've got to buy a vehicle for what your needs are."

And while sales besides the hybrid Civic models continue to be strong, when Vista gets in a new hybrid, it's not on the lot for long.

"Right now, any hybrid we get is gone the day it comes in," Landers said.


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The VailDaily Updated Jun 6, 2008 06:03PM Published Jun 6, 2008 06:03PM Copyright 2008 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.