Toyota and Fisker unveil new hybrids

May 18, 2009 7:18:21 PM PDT
With Washington upping fuel standards, the marketplace is responding with new and improved hybrids. Two new models were in the spotlight, one in Japan and one in San Jose.

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The newest hybrid to hit the market is called Karma. With an $87,000 price tag, it's three to four times more expensive than the Honda Insight or the Toyota Prius.

"It's great to bring a luxury hybrid to the mix as well. This is a very big car, there is room for golf clubs, bags for weekend trips," said Fisker Silicon Valley dealer Adam Simms.

The Karma has a range of 50 miles on a fully charged battery, then it kicks into hybrid mode -- a combination of electric and gasoline. The car will be made in Finland, using parts made in the U.S.

Henrik Fisker, the designer, said it can turn out cars faster by outsourcing.

"The gasoline engine that's in this vehicle we buy from a supplier from General Motors. And there's a couple of others things, like the air conditioning and other things that we didn't want to spend tens of millions developing if you can buy it from a supplier that already makes it," said Fisker.

Toyota unveiled its long-awaited 2010 Prius in Japan. Also a hybrid, its mileage has gone up from 46 to 50 miles per gallon.

About 80,000 customers have already placed orders, which could lead to delivery delays.

"Realistically we can't give them a specific timing, but we're going to tell them it's going to be anywhere from four to about eight weeks," said Lee McKim from Stevens Creek Toyota.

The Karma will be competing with the electric-only Tesla, which boasts a waiting list of 1,000.

Karma has won over Silicon Valley engineer John Gaw.

"If you compare this to a lot of what's out there, I think it just looks a lot better, but in my opinion, I think the whole plug-in direction as a direction is a lot better for the environment and a lot better for performance than a pure plug-in model like the Tesla," said Gaw.

As with all new technology, there will be a wait involved. This new car won't be available until next May, but there are people anxious to get one.

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