By on November 24, 2010

Bloomberg reports that the General Services Administration has increased the percentage of hybrids in its fleet purchases from about one percent to at least ten percent since President Obama took over. And you better believe that the government isn’t buying the same hybrids that American consumers are.

The U.S. government buys hybrids almost exclusively from Ford and GM. It bought only 17 Prius models and five of Honda’s Civic hybrids in the past two years. Chrysler Group LLC stopped making hybrids in 2008 after about two months of production.

The government purchased about 64 percent of GM’s Chevy Malibu hybrid models and 29 percent of all Ford Fusion hybrids manufactured since Obama took office in 2009, the data show. GM stopped making the Malibu hybrid in 2009 after lack of consumer demand. GSA also bought about 14 percent of Ford Escape hybrids.

According to Bloomberg’s math, a quarter of the hybrids built by GM and Ford since Obama took office have been purchased by the government. And the fleet buys weren’t cheap… for taxpayers or the automakers.

According to Bloomberg’s number-crunching, the government paid a healthy sum for each car… but the automakers still didn’t make full profit on the deals. The report reveals

The models purchased by the government ranged from $23,072 to $47,079, according to the data. The government paid an average of $5,281 less for its hybrid vehicles than sticker prices at a dealership

Lose-lose? Not according to the GSA, whose spokseperson insists

This is the beginning. Our main goal is to increase the fuel efficiency of the federal fleet. The other goal is to drive the market toward cleaner technologies. It’s in the early stages of the government acquiring more hybrids and in larger quantities.

Of course buying up the few hybrids built by Detroit doesn’t hurt the political argument for the bailout’s success either. Buying hybrids has all kinds of benefits… it’s just that few of them can really be quantified in dollars or common sense.

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14 Comments on “One Quarter Of Detroit’s Hybrids Bought By The Federal Government...”

  • avatar

    … it’s just that few of them can really be quantified in dollars or common sense.

    And you asked me to give you examples of your reflexive and unfounded anti-EV and anti-hybrid bias…

    • 0 avatar

      jmo, it’s hardly a reflexive act to point out that hybrids generally don’t recover the purchase cost premium with the gas that you save. Some would call that common sense.

    • 0 avatar

      generally don’t recover the purchase cost premium with the gas that you save.

      Well, we’re not talking about in general, we’re talking about fleet sales to the GSA.   Common sense would indicate that how the GSA uses its vehicles may differ from the use pattern of the typical car buyer.

    • 0 avatar

      JMO –

      Although the fleet EV’s/hybrids are purchased at lower fleet prices, thus needing less miles to recoup the costs, their non EV/hybrid ‘competition’ is also purchased at a lower fleet price which (I believe) is a more agressive discount that is given on EV/hybrids. 

      Additionally the argument that staff cars are driven more in city traffic isn’t necesarily valid. It is true though that the staff cars are generally driven less miles in total, giving them less opportunity to recoup their higher intitial costs.

      The perfect scenario of driving lots and lots of city miles  is pretty rare for most govt fleet vehicles in our wide open United States.  The percentage of the Govt fleet residing in NYC, Boston, et al is not very high.

    • 0 avatar

      Of course the feds differ from real world car buyers.
      In that they only shop union badges – never mind that that Fusion has a lowest in segment 20% NA parts content – put it on someone else’s credit card, and keep the cars for less than three years.
      When the government does something only a moron would do, it isn’t because they know something you don’t.  It’s because the moron is them.

    • 0 avatar

      You seem to know a lot about the usage patterns of GSA vehicles.  Can you direct us to where you obtained your usage data?
      The perfect scenario of driving lots and lots of city miles  is pretty rare for most govt fleet vehicles in our wide open United States.

      Yet, 81% of the population of the US resides in cities and suburbs.  Common sense would say that  the provision of government services relates more to population density and the location of population centers than pure geographic area.

  • avatar

    I’m all for increasing the fuel economy of the government fleet, but only if the government keeps these cars long enough to pay off the hybrid premium cost.

  • avatar

    Funny that you ran this today. Yesterday I was walking through the parking lot of an office building a couple of minutes from my home. There’s a Social Security office in the bldg as well as some state offices so there are always gov’t vehicles in the lot. I noticed that the Fusions were hybrids but the Malibus were not.
    It’d be interesting to compare the percentage of white collar gov’t employees that have access to a ‘company’ car with those in the private sector. I suspect that most private sector employees have to put wear and tear on their own vehicles and then submit a request for mileage reimbursement, which rarely covers actual costs.

    • 0 avatar

      @ Ronnie

      Many of my friends are required to drive for their job. All work in the private sector and all were issued a company car. None are required to drive their own vehicle.

      The guy who delivers pizza to my house has to drive his own car, but I wouldn’t call that a white collar job.

      Can you point us to some published data demonstrating that mileage reimbursements rarely cover actual costs? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but unless you can back up your opinion with some facts, you’re as full of hot air as the politicians and civil servants driving those government hybrids.

    • 0 avatar

      At 35 to 50 cents per km, I’ve always made good money driving my own vehicles, as do all my friends who use personal vehicles for work. We consider it a tax-free bonus.  Well, except one.  Taking his ’97 Acura Civic to over 300k km netted him a good return, but now that he bought a new car he usually takes the company fleet vehicles.  So yeah, I guess they don’t pay enough to cover costs on a 2011 S4.

  • avatar

    Rather than the government, I would have imagined electric utilities across the country would have been big purchasers of hybrids, and particularly plug ins. Although, it may still happen, as plug ins are just becoming available for public purchase.
    While I might agree that the cost of a hybrid for most average consumers will never be completely amortized, maybe the governmental units who get the hybrid cars will make the economics work. I don’t know what (or if) statistics exist for governmental travel by vehicle, but I would have to imagine that it would be more than the average Joe, possibly?

    • 0 avatar

      I may be wrong, but the Feds generally don’t keep their vehicles long enough to amortize the hybrid premium. Plus they aren’t used any more than personal cars, at least most of them aren’t.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      “I may be wrong, but the Feds generally don’t keep their vehicles long enough to amortize the hybrid premium.” 

      You’re right.  The feds generally don’t.  If other government agencies at various state and local levels were to purchase them, it would likely be different.  I work for a school district and we routinely keep cars for many, many years.  There are at least 1 Ford Contour and 1 Mercury Mystique running around (last sold in US, 2000 model year), a 1st generation Intrepid (last model year 1997), and even a 1991 (at the newest) LeSabare that apparently was part of a large fleet order at one point because 5 similar models are sitting behind the motor pool being cannibalized for parts for the one still on the road.
      Now my district (in the midst of a budget crisis) isn’t going to be buying any cars any time soon, but when we do it’s usually fleet Impalas, 4cyl FWD Escapes, 4cyl Equinoxs, and a few Dodge Journeys.  The last large fleet order was during 2005-2007 to pick up Tauruses with 0 options.  The newest thing I can find is the Journeys otherwise nothing is newer than 2007.  If we could afford hybrids we’d drive the doors off of them.  The district is so large and rural that the furthest away school is 3 hrs drive one way and the out of town ones are at least a 1/2 hr away (one way.)

  • avatar

    This is completely off topic, but the picture reminds me of a lolcat where the cat is staring straight into the camera looking for food.

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