RUSH: We had a discussion last week about all these hybrids. I have told people ever since I heard about it, I talked to a high-ranking automobile executive who said, you know, this hybrid stuff is crazy. He said, “If we could make every automobile in America a hybrid today, in five years we would be right back to using the same amount of gasoline and oil that we’re using today. It’s not going to save anything. So this little column appeared in the Wall Street Journal yesterday by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. It’s called “Dear Valued Hybrid Customer — We at the Toyota Motor Corporation are writing to address certain misconceptions that have arisen about your Toyota Prius model, which we are proud to note is driven by many celebrities, including Prince Charles and HBO’s Larry David. Our pioneering gasoline-electric hybrid, introduced in 1999, has become an object of adoration to the world’s enlightened car buyers. Our competitors, including America’s Big Three, are rushing out hybrid vehicles of their own. Unconfirmed media reports say that we at Toyota intend to double our hybrid output to 500,000 vehicles next year. Along with other members of the auto industry, we will be lobbying for tax breaks and HOV privileges for hybrid vehicles. However, any romance entering its seventh year tends to go stale. Some purchasers have begun to question the practical value of our Hybrid Synergy Drive technology.
“You may be aware that a survey by Consumer Reports found that our vehicles achieve considerably less mileage (some 26% less) than the sticker rating implies. This has led to some unflattering media stories. Let us assure you that the Prius remains one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the road. Toyota applauds your willingness to spend $9,500 over the price of any comparable vehicle for the privilege of saving, at current gasoline prices, approximately $580 a year — and should the price of gasoline rise to $5, after 10 years and/or 130,000 miles of driving, you might even come close to breaking even on your investment in hybrid technology.” Yeah, so the price of gas would have to rise five bucks after ten years and/or you’d have to drive one of these things 130,000 miles to get back the overprice you paid to be technically and environmental correct. Now… “We recognize that our customers have an ’emotional’ relationship with their vehicles. This transcends even the regrettable truth that driving a fuel-efficient car
“It is consumed by someone else. Greenhouse pollutants are released. Also, please note that the warranty and owner’s manual say nothing about reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. This is not an oversight. The Prius is an ‘oil-dependent’ vehicle. It runs on gasoline, supplied by the same world market that fuels other vehicles. The Toyota Corporation regrets any misunderstanding our marketing may inadvertently have caused (or may cause in the future),” and this is — if I may take a brief pause here from reading the column, this is — just classic because you know these people are out buying this car, think they’re doing so much to “save the planet,” and they’re not. They’re not saving themselves any money; they’re not saving appreciable amounts of gasoline. The thing doesn’t get the mileage that it has promised to get and besides somebody is using the oil anyway. They’re not doing diddly-squat. Now… “We [at Toyota] share your belief that the days of the internal combustion engine are numbered. Further research by our economists suggests this will happen when the price of gasoline rises high enough to make alternative technologies cheaper than gasoline-powered cars. We at Toyota want you to know we recognize this effect and have taken steps to compensate with the rest of our vehicle lineup.
“Our 2006 Tundra pickup will be equipped with Toyota’s new eight-cylinder engine, making it every bit as much of a gas guzzler as any American pickup. We are also redirecting our efforts to use our Hybrid Synergy Drive to increase power output rather than reduce gasoline consumption,” because too many Prius owners are complaining it has no get-up-and-go, so we’re going to get it more get-up-and-go and we’re gonna use more gasoline but you can still be proud you’re driving a Prius. “Take our new hybrid SUV, which produces 38 more horsepower but gets the same mileage as our conventional version. A New York Times reviewer wrote, ‘One question lingers after driving the 2006 Lexus RX400h: How did it come to this, that Toyota is now selling a hybrid gas-electric vehicle with no tangible fuel economy benefits?’ We hope this corrects any misimpression caused by our latest slogan (‘Commute with Nature’). Hybrid technology is not ‘green’ technology. Like heated seats or flashy exterior trim, it’s merely an expensive option that generates large markups for the Toyota Corporation and its dealers, [and we are thankful that you support both]. You will share our pride in the latest figures from J.D. Power & Associates, which show that the Prius continues to move off a dealer’s lot in just eight days, compared to 36 days for a Honda Civic hybrid. Clearly, our customers are willing to pay handsomely for the privilege of showing themselves behind the wheel of so conspicuously virtuous a vehicle. But we are also a far-seeing corporation.
“We recognize that the Prius’s distinctiveness may be a wasting asset for reasons outlined in this letter. Other motorists may see the Prius operator and think ‘sucker.’ Our lawyers advise us this may affect your car’s resale value. Toyota regrets any inconvenience. We want you to know that Toyota remains committed to advancing hybrid technology just as long as our customers are willing to make it worth our while. Our esteemed competitor, Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn, was recently quoted saying, ‘There’s such a buzz today that no CEO of a car manufacturer dares to say his real opinion of hybrid because he’s accused of being retarded.’ Another esteemed competitor, GM, has suggested that hybrid technology is best deployed in city buses, where large fuel consumption and stop-and-go driving might actually make it economically sensible. These are just two examples of the short-sighted, stick-in-the-mud marketing instincts of our fellow automakers that are helping to make Toyota the largest car company in the world. Yours Truly, the Toyota Corporation.” So the bottom line here is that people that are buying Priuses are doing it for glamour reasons. They wanted to appear virtuous. But they’re accomplishing nothing. They’re overpaying. They’re not saving any money. They’re not saving any fuel. They’re not advancing a new technology. This is not going to be the end of the internal combustion engine, and
RUSH: Okay, to the phones! Corpus Christi, Texas, Andrew, welcome. Nice to have you on the program, sir.
CALLER: Hi there. How you doing?
RUSH: Good. Never better, sir.
CALLER: Yeah, I just want to point out that, you know, you say that only [sic–“most,” see four sentences above] liberals buy Priuses and that it doesn’t have get up and go, and I think before you say something like that, you should really go try one for yourself.
RUSH: Sir, I wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those things. They look ugly to boot. I mean, part of the intrigue of these things is they’ve tried to design these things as a car that the Jetsons would drive. These liberals think they’re ahead of the game on these things, and they’re just suckers. If you like it, I’m not trying to talk you out of it. I mean, you are more than welcome to it. That’s what the letter from Toyota to their Prius customers is all about.
CALLER: Well, I will agree it is an ugly looking car, and I kind of had the same opinion when my parents bought it. I told them, “No, you’re just buying that, you know, it’s a greeny car,” and my parents aren’t greenies. They’re hard-core conservatives, and they voted for Bush, but —
CALLER: — my dad did — he did all the math on it. He looked up prices. He looked up, you know, how much he would save, and he did come to the conclusion that he would save a little bit of money — and he is kind of a skinflint, so…
CALLER: All economic reasons, I think, is the reason he bought it.
RUSH: All I can do is the Prius costs basically ten grand more than something comparable. It would take 130,000 miles to make that price difference up in whatever you save in gasoline. So you gotta own and drive this thing a lot before it actually saves you any money. But if it makes you feel good and if it makes your dad feel good and makes him feel he’s contributing, that’s fine. I don’t want to burst any bubbles here but it’s like any other car, buy it because you like it but don’t think that you are saving the planet, saving the environment, making anybody else safer or not, because there’s no economic advantage to it unless it saves whoever buys it money — and it can’t be demonstrated that it does.
CALLER: Well, you’re saying…130,000 miles is a lot. I mean, for most people that’s, you know, eight or nine years of driving. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot to me.
RUSH: Well, I don’t know what the average American puts in terms of mileage on the lifetime of a car. [8,000 miles a year; 300K in 37-1/2 years] You know, I’m not average in any way. I have had my current car for two years and it’s probably got 4,000 miles on it. I’ve got a 1977 car that, I think, it’s the got 8,000 miles on it, so I don’t do a whole lot of driving. The Prius is not a… The Prius is… What would you call it? You know, it’s a high-end buy for people that want to show off. It’s no different than these people that wear these colored ribbons. Those colored ribbons, whenever they wear the ribbons: “I care more than you because I’m wearing this ribbon! I don’t see
“You can’t do that! You can’t do that! Why, that’s a hybrid car!”
Hey, you know, if you’re going to buy a car, and some people aren’t going to like it, you gotta learn to live with that. I appreciate the call, though. Here’s Mark in Bethesda, Maryland. Welcome to the EIB Network, sir. Great to have you with us.
CALLER: Hey, Rush. Boy this is a great birthday present for me to get to talk to you.
RUSH: Well, happy birthday, sir!
CALLER: Thank you. I am a Prius owner. I am almost as far to the right as you can go, and my wife also drives a Honda hybrid.
CALLER: We bought these two years ago because my wife wanted to make a statement as far as not being dependent on foreign oil.
CALLER: I can’t say on the air what her statement was.
RUSH: See? Look at how much good your conservatism is doing you.
CALLER: Well, the problem is, so many liberals kept stopping me in the parking lot thinking I was a liberal and a greeny.
CALLER: So what I had to do to fight back is I had to pay to get a vanity plate that has the Hebrew radioed on it “shamran,” which means
CALLER: But I will say this, Rush: I enjoy my car a lot. It does not have any pickup. I don’t care. I keep a worksheet and I get anywhere from 35 to 50 miles per gallon per tank. I’m happy, and when I bought the car in 2003, the state of Maryland — I did not have to pay sales tax on either car, and at that time the federal government also on your Schedule A, gave you a benefit also.
RUSH: I’m sure. The government is trying to get people into these things. It’s all a political issue. But see, they have to do that because people on their own are not going to go out and buy them. Nobody really wants them. When I say “nobody,” I mean the vast majority of Americans do not want them, and so they have to offer all these incentives — and the real interesting thing about that column from the guy in the Wall Street Journal is all the other automakers
RUSH: Denise in Tucson, you’re next on the Rush Limbaugh program. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Rush!
CALLER: Dittos from Tucson, Arizona!
RUSH: Well, it’s great to have you on the program, Denise. It’s nice to have you with us.
CALLER: I’m a first time caller, and absolutely thrilled to speak with you!
RUSH: Thank you.
CALLER: I’m comforted to know that there are so many, um, conservatives and Bush supporters that drive Prius[sic–Priuses]. I didn’t know that there were that many of us out there!
CALLER: It’s reassuring.
RUSH: Denise, you’re the third. (laughing)
CALLER: I’m only the third?
RUSH: You’re only the third that we’ve heard from.
CALLER: (Laughing). Well, you know, I worried my father. He lives in New Jersey and he’s one of your biggest fans.
CALLER: Hi dad! — and he is a staunch conservative, and I think my husband and I worried him when we first got this. I think he was worried that we converted to tree hugger and environmental wacko, and we are every day —
RUSH: Why did you buy it? If that’s not the reason, why did you buy it?
CALLER: Just because we liked it.
RUSH: To me, that’s fine. If you go into a car lot, you look around and this car appeals to you, by all means buy it. If you can afford it and this is what you want, I have no complaint. It’s when people start preaching to me that they’re better people than anybody else because they’re driving these things around when they think they’re saving all kinds of things and are not saving anything, including themselves money.
CALLER: Yeah, we don’t ?
CALLER: We didn’t buy it to make a statement, we don’t have unrealistic expectations of it, and, to tell you the truth, we’re pretty disgusted with the other Prius owners that are so smug. I mean, they’re even smug with other Prius owners!
RUSH: Wait a second. Wait, wait, wait. Where do you run into other Prius owners? Do that’s cars congregate someplace with the drivers?
CALLER: Well, I thought — I thought it would feel like a club mentality where we’d kind of enjoy our Prius[es] together but, you know, there’s a lot of Prius[es] out here in Tucson now, and they don’t even look at you. They don’t even like give you a thumbs-up. They don’t even give you a, “Hi, hello.” There’s like this competitiveness for uniqueness, and they’re very, very smug towards all cars, including other Prius[es].
RUSH: Doesn’t surprise me at all. You’re talking about liberals. They think they’re better people. They think they’re better people than even other Prius owners.
CALLER: But I’m surprised on that during the elections I expected there to be a lot of Prius owners that have Kerry bumper stickers, and it wasn’t the case. I’d see… I would like, I would actually like to get some ideas from you where a conservative, uh, people who drive Prius[es]. Do you have any fun little bumper sticker idea that we could identify with and share on our cars?
RUSH: Sure, just go out and get a bumper stick that says, “I Bought This, But I Know I’m Not Saving the Environment. I Just Like It,” or get a bumper sticker saying, “This Car Having No Impact on the Environment One Way or the Other.” Just put where another Prius driver can see that and ruin their day; they might get into road rage with you so you have to think about that. I think the reason these Kerry people don’t go out and put bumper stickers is they’re already embarrassed that they’re driving a Prius. Why embarrass themselves further with the Kerry bumper sticker? It’s either that or they don’t want the additional weight slowing the thing down. It’s tough to get up to 60 miles an hour. So the more weight you tag on in there, like on a bumper sticker, it has a direct effect on the car. Look, I’m glad you called out there, Denise. (interruption) Snerdley just says that people that drive the kind of car I drive, do we wave at each other, do we have a little club? Well, I don’t know. I only know one other person that has the kind of car I’ve got and I’ve never seen him driving it at the same time I’m driving mine. Now, I know there are more of them. I think there are about 400 cars in the country like the kind I have. There may be more here, but the guy I know that’s got one, too, I never see him driving it, so I’ve never had a chance to wave at him. But I’ll tell you what does happen.
What’s really funny is here in Palm Beach, you have all these 65- and 70-year-old people in Ferraris and Beamers (laughing), and they’re driving them 30 miles an hour because that’s the speed limit — and even some of the young Turks go out and get some of these sports car things and you pull up at a red light and you’re sitting there. You can just see they think they’re hot; they’re driving the latest. It’s brand-new, probably just got it from the dealership yesterday or the day before. They pull up next to my car and they can’t take their eyes off of it. I see this out of the corner of my eye. I’ll go driving around town and people will, you know, wave out their windows and give me this, you know, circle finger. “All right, man! Great!” That happens to me all the time, and I wave back to them. I don’t sit there and pretend like I ignore them. I’m not like a Prius driver. This is the point. I don’t ignore these people; I don’t run around feeling smug because of what I’m in — and somedays I take the old car. Somedays I take the Mercedes. You know, it’s 2003. So I’ll get in the old car, the convertible, and I’ll go tooling around, and I don’t feel smug. No. I’m not into this. But these Prius drivers, it doesn’t surprise me a bit that they’re smug, because they bought it in the first place because they’re trying to make a statement about themselves. They think they’re gods. You know, gods don’t respond to gestures. Gods don’t answer letters. God’s don’t. They think they’re gods. They are saving the planet! They are better people. They’re not going to acknowledge you, even another Prius owner, because they’re going to question your motivation for having one — or they’re going to be angry that you’ve got one because they want to be the only one in the neighborhood with one because they want to be considered the only good people in the neighborhood. I know these people.
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