2010 Volkswagen Golf – Click above for high-res image gallery

Producers of upscale small cars such as the Volkswagen Golf, Mazda3 and Volvo C30 face stiff competition from hybrid vehicles for reasons unrelated to fuel mileage. Upscale cars are priced at the top end of their individual segment and are purchased by those interested in more than just a point A to point B car. These vehicles cater to those attempting to stand out or those interested in something different.

These little runabouts are now faced with overcoming more than just traditional competitors. They are also fighting for sales with an unexpected entrant, the hybrid. In this example, the hybrid is not purchased for fuel efficiency alone, but as a symbolic message of the purchaser's greenness, or an object with bragging rights or for its exclusivity. The buyer expects others to notice that their vehicle is more than just basic transportation.

In the price range of a typically equipped Golf, you will find the Prius, a strong competitor. VW acknowledges the competition with Toyota and suggests that its vehicles offer a more emotionally involved experience and carry a stylish appeal absent with many of Toyota's products. Just in case you don't agree, VW offers the TDI engine option that returns hybrid-like gas mileage complete with green appeal and comparative rarity.

Differentiating yourself from the crowded market of upscale small cars is difficult but necessary for strong sales. As more compact hybrids enter the market, competition will become stiffer and segment leaders will face a new battle for the top spot.

[Source: Ward's Auto - sub. req.]

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