All hail the hybrid!

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Pic: Toyota GB

Having jumped on the diesel bandwagon some 10 years ago, I have now joined the rising tide of hybrid drivers.

I took delivery of my new Toyota Auris Touring Sport a week ago and so far the fuel economy is looking pretty good – annoyingly (for other drivers) as soon as the electric battery kicks in and I am therefore not burning any fuel, I try to keep it in EV mode for as long as possible which is usually around 27 mph unless going downhill, when it remains powered by electric up to about 40-odd miles an hour or uphill when the regular petrol engine takes control.

As well as joining the growing numbers of alternatively fuelled vehicle or AFV owners, I have also boosted the new registration figures.

December was the best ever, up by 8.4% with 180,077 cars registered whilst 2015 as a whole saw more than 2.6 million vehicles registered, the fourth consecutive year of growth and outperforming the last record year. In 2003 2,579,050 cars were registered and in 2015 the number grew to 2,633,503, equating to market growth of 6.3%. (Source: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders).

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Pic: Toyota GB

Hybrid and other AFVs continue to gain in the popularity stakes, registrations in December saw AFV vehicles up by a massive 40.3% which saw these cars secure 2.8% of the market, its biggest share yet. The demand for diesel remained constant, up 3% and petrol saw gains of 8.4%. Whilst the emissions scandal does not seem to have affected diesel, all the company’s main brands experienced a decline in November. Year on year, Volkswagen sales were down by 19.99%, Audi 4.41%, Skoda 10.98% and Seat 23.93% (Source: SMMT).

Highly competitive finance offers remain the main driver for new car sales – I took advantage of 0% interest when I made my recent purchase and over three-and-a-half years including a maintenance package, it makes it affordable for me and perfect timing for the dealership when the agreement comes to an end and they look to put me into another car.

The trend for hybrid and electric vehicles is set to continue with the independent sector being urged to embrace training in order to secure a slice of future service work. Industry representatives at the 2015 IAAF conference at the ICC, Birmingham, were told to prepare for the “beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine”.

However, a survey undertaken by Auto Trader found that although 87% of motorists would consider buying an AFV, such as a hybrid car or electric vehicle, 77% thought they didn’t have enough information to make an informed choice. The purchase price for pure electric cars, even with the £5,000 government grant, is perceived as high. Range remains an issue for many motorists. Known as range anxiety, 18% named it as a barrier to purchase. Whilst the number is reducing indicating the message is hitting home, there’s still a job to be done for manufacturers and dealers to persuade consumers their fears are misplaced. Meanwhile, only 40% say improved fuel economy costs is the main benefit of an AFV, that’s a message dealers and manufacturers should be shouting from the rooftops.

Drivers like me can always opt for the half-way house solution which the hybrid offers – the benefit of electric power at low speeds working in tandem with the petrol engine, and, the best bit, no recharging necessary!

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Pic: Toyota GB

And whilst I swapped my diesel for a hybrid, it takes more than a scandal to put off us Brits from buying vehicles powered by this fuel. According to research by the AA, 28% of us would still consider a diesel car and that’s a drop of just 1% compared to a similar survey undertaken in May before the Volkswagen scandal hit the headlines. It’s still 2% down from December last year, which could perhaps indicate a gradual move away from diesel. According to the survey 9% said an AFV was on their radar.

If you want my opinion, go for the hybrid, you get the best of both worlds – increased fuel economy and lower emissions mean a more attractive road tax band and best of all, no recharging necessary (did I mention that?!).

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