People think they want hybrids and they'll buy them, even if a conventional car would make more sense for their pocketbook and for the environment. The danger is that automakers will co-opt the hybrids' green mantle and, with the help of a government looking to bail out its troubled friends in Detroit, misguidedly encourage the sale of hybrids without reference to their actual effect on oil consumption.Kitman's right, but my view isn't quite as harsh because I think today's Prius buyer is a direct descendant of those who bought VW Beetles 45 years ago. The car may not have been perfect upon it's debut (drum brakes, no heat, zero torque), but it did signal a sea change in the type of products available to American drivers. That change is needed today as much as it was then.
The sheep-like mentality of American car buyers is legendary, and it holds true for both the buyer of the $70K LX470 and the hybrid Prius (both Toyotas if you noticed). The difference is that while the buyer of the hulking vehicle shrugs and lives with the choice they've made, the driver of the miniscule vehicle doesn't let greater (if not dubious) efficiency be their only reward: They frequently demand legislative platitudes and special treatment in the tax code for their choice, which is arguably not always worthy of such reward.