Audi Q7 hybrid in 2008

Although U.S. hybrid sales seem to have leveled off a bit recently, some argue that they will continue to grow as more models are introduced and the benefits become more clearly defined to consumers. But this creates a catch-22. If nobody introduces new product until hybrids take off and consumers are waiting for more options before taking the plunge, then there's no hope for progress. Nissan recently decided to jump into the fray with its 2007 Altima Hybrid, but Audi has taken a conservative approach. At least that's what Audi engineer Marius Lehna told Reuters. If the demand doesn't change, "it could become increasingly difficult to manufacture and sell hybrids in commercially sensible volumes," commented Lehna.

Developing a hybrid system is costly and with competing technologies such as pure electrics and fuel cells in the mix, hybrids aren't necessarily a sure thing saleswise. So Audi will hold off on full-scale production and try to gauge future trends before fully committing to the Q7 hybrid they are working on. The U.S. currently accounts for 70% of the 283,000 hybrids sold worldwide. But when you consider that 16 to 17 million vehicles are sold annually, that's a tiny fraction. Despite the pessimism, Audi plans on introducing its Q7 hybrid, which they co-developed with Porsche, by 2008.

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(Gallery of the Frankfurt '05 Audi Q7 Hybrid concept after the jump)

[Source: Motor Authority]

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