For those Americans who are still employed and have to drive to work every day, the continuing low pump prices for gasoline have been a boon. The current national average of $2.68 a gallon for regular is equivalent to an inflation-adjusted $1.01 per gallon in 1980. While that's certainly good for household budgets in a struggling economy, it doesn't provide much incentive to buy fuel efficient vehicles at a price premium. With the new Chevrolet Cruze starting at over $16,000 and the soon-to-launch new Ford Focus likely to cost at least that much, high-mpg cars could face a tough road in the market unless fuel prices rise soon.
Similarly, the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and next year's Focus Electric will no doubt appeal to the early adopters, but each of those vehicles needs to find a broad mainstream audience if they are to succeed. Even with tax incentives, each of those vehicles will command a significant price premium. Unless gas prices start to go back up toward $4 a gallon, the huge investments the auto companies made in those vehicles will be very hard to recoup. Of course, the chances of Congress raising fuel taxes any time in the foreseeable future are virtually nonexistent. Sigh.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req'd]

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