Hybrid Bill Running Out of Gas

Appearing to run out of gas in California is proposed legislation to sell hybrid vehicles over the Internet without dealer involvement. Spearheading the bill is a consortium of environmental groups that touts such legislation as a way to encourage higher sales of vehicles. The proposal would create a separate licensing category and, in effect, circumvent auto dealers by way of direct sales. Bill sponsors

Appearing to run out of gas in California is proposed legislation to sell hybrid vehicles over the Internet without dealer involvement.

Spearheading the bill is a consortium of environmental groups that touts such legislation as a way to encourage higher sales of “green” vehicles.

The proposal would create a separate licensing category and, in effect, circumvent auto dealers by way of direct sales. Bill sponsors believe that defraying distribution costs would lower the price of the vehicles, making them even more popular in environmentally friendly California.

Peter Welch, president of the California Motor Car Dealers Assn., calls the bill a “mish mash.” It was withdrawn for lack of support in the state assembly. It may be reintroduced, says Welch. Besides dealers, an alliance of auto manufacturers opposes it.

“We are pleased with the success of selling hybrids through our dealership network,” says Bob Dutton, manager of dealer facility planning for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc.

He adds, “We'd sell more if we could get them, and our dealers are asking for them.”

Does he see a future in hybrid engines, a mating of gasoline and electric powertrains?

“I see a present,” says Dutton. “There are so many power options coming, so many selections. But right now, the hybrid is a good product.”

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