Duffy Motors owner and veteran wheel man Lee Atkinson thinks there’s only one thing holding back a hybrid revolution – ugly looks.
Manchester garage owner and motoring industry veteran Lee Atkinson thinks hybrid vehicles will soon take over the streets of this city and the country, just as soon as the manufacturers start making some better looking cars.
In spite of government cuts to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, Lee believes that the rise of hybrid is now inevitable and he is already planning for a hybrid future by sending technicians on an intensive new hybrid training course.
Lee said: “Hybrid cars are getting cheaper and cheaper to run and repair and they are inching closer and closer to the mainstream of car sales. As diesel technology falters (think the Audi diesel emissions scandal), I expect hybrid to take the mantel of cheap to run economical motor.
“But there’s just one problem – their looks still split opinion.”
Lee believes that a lot of hybrid cars were styled in a way so that they appealed to early adopters, keen for something a bit different. But as they get closer to mainstream motors, Lee thinks they need to get more conventionally attractive if they are going to have mass appeal.
He said: “The Toyota Prius is a good example. The Prius is the original hybrid and lots of people still think it’s the best. From a garage owner’s perspective, it’s a great car – it’s economical and not too expensive and its inner workings are but indestructible – it’s nearly unheard of for one to go wrong.
“A lot of people still see them as ugly cars though. If hybrid cars are going to make the switch from niche interest to mainstream run-around quickly, then they need to start making some beauties.”
Figures from earlier this year do show that demand for hybrid vehicles is growing.
Data from the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed that demand for plug-in hybrids grew by 133% between 2014 and 2015, while demand for the more popular petrol powered hybrids also grew 18% in the same period.
In September, research from the RAC Foundation poured a bit of cold water over this growth. The updated figures appeared to show that cuts to a government subsidy had led to a slow-down in the demand for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
“I don’t think it will be long before we see some more attractive hybrid cars. In the past, it was mainly just the Japanese manufacturers concerned about electric and hybrid. But a few years ago, European car makers started taking an interest.
“Some of these European versions are definitely better looking than their Japanese counterparts. The BMW i8 is definitely leading the way for the beautiful but economical class at the moment. I don’t think it will be much longer before other manufacturers try to catch up. There are already signs that some of the Japanese makers are upping their game to compete.
“Hybrids are getting cheaper to buy, they are cheaper to run and there’s no road tax on them. I don’t think it will be long before they are the no-brainer choice for new car buyers.
“In the garage we’re planning for a lot more hybrid and electric cars over the next few years. We will soon be sending technicians out on an intensive hybrid training course run by one of the biggest Japanese car part manufacturers.”
Which Hybrid car to choose?
The Manchester Evening News, our local newspaper here in the city has put together its own list of the best economical motors which we think is pretty good.
Lee said: “The new generation of European motors do look appealing but it is worth remembering that Japanese manufacturers have been doing these cars a lot longer. Japanese hybrids are quite cheap, they’re very reliable and cheap to run. I think that’s where I would be looking at the moment.”