Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Perks of Driving a Hybrid Car

There was so much bad news to absorb this morning that it was pleasant to read one story that allowed me to step into my wife's office and put a smile on her face. It seems some people are complaining about hybrid vehicles. What we have heard most is that they are expensive or that they are "unproven" technology. But today's belly aching was something new... that hybrid drivers are getting special treatment with parking spots. It seems that IKEA has reserved two spots beside the front door, in front of eleven stores in Canada. One tag line I read whined "Niche consumers get special treatment."

My wife bought a Toyota Camry Hybrid six weeks ago and is very happy with it. Hell I'm happy with it! She's a busy realtor and burns gas like we have our own refinery in the back yard. Since she bought the hybrid she's only refilled the tank three times. That's terrific. The cream in the coffee took place when we took a trip into the U.S. last month. There was better than an hour waiting time to cross in each direction, but while we lost time we didn't lose money. As we inched along car length by car length, to get to the customs window, I was on battery power. Nice!

Buying a Toyota Camry Hybrid was almost as difficult in Vancouver as buying a Nintendo Wii. Originally I tried to persuade her on a RAV but the helpful Winson Wu, a salesman at Westminster Toyota, allowed us to demo his personal vehicle. We weren't even thinking of Hybrid in spite of the TV ads. We were hooked with a thorough examination of the vehicle, a test drive, and the salesman's informed responses to my hardest questions. None of the Toyota lots in town had one to sell her so in the end my wife ordered a car from Winson. It took three weeks to arrive from the factory in Kentucky but we're glad we waited. The environmental incentives were great too - a $3,500 purchase tax discount. $2,000 off B.C.'s PST and a further $1,500 rebate. Moreover Winson taught my wife every feature of the vehicle, allowing her to maximize on her investment. My first EVER car salesman recommendation - winson200601@hotmail.com

So what if we get a break on parking. They are plenty of people, great and small, who get parking breaks. Take the mayor of our city for instance. He has his own VIP parking stall and yet when I went over to pay my property tax in June I noticed that Mayor Derek Corrigan was parking at the front entrance where anyone else would get ticketed. The other thing I noticed is that he drives a big SUV - a robust Mazda Tribute, licence # 875-EEG.

Now Derek is not just a lawyer and a mayor, he's also a really big bug with the NDP - a man who is in the forefront of pushing big ticket, fully unionized mass transit networks and who professes to hate urban sprawl, ANY new highway construction and is dead against building new arterials and bridges ANYWHERE in Greater Vancouver. Now THAT is guy I would expect to see driving a hybrid or even a hydrogen powered car. After all, Burnaby is home to BALLARD POWER, makers of cutting edge (taxpayer funded) hydrogen fuel cell technology. But then BALLARD was in bed with the Liberal Party - Jean Chretien was their bosom buddy until the Grits got the heave ho in the last federal election. Maybe Derek holds a grudge. Politics here abouts is notoriously vicious.

Here's hoping that other companies start throwing hybrid owner's a few crumbs and maybe a few cities. Vancouver for instance is such a nasty anti-car municipality that the downtown has been losing business for five years running. Hybrid free parking zones might be the only way to draw back some of the exasperated people who now avoid going "downtown" at to shop.

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