PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The announcement of the first Hybrid Mini-Van in the U.S. market didn’t at first seem to be a game changer.READ MORE: Waterford Township Schools Closed After More Than 60% Of Staff Sickened Following Luncheon
And yet the plug-in hybrid version of the new strong selling Chrysler Pacifica minivan is leading a movement to make hybrids and electrics less of the outliers in the sales tallies.
With soft demand on several years of low fuel prices, hybrids and electrics bottomed out at under 2 percent of U.S. market share this year. But the trajectory for electrified vehicle sales is up over 60 percent for 2016 as new plug-in electrics like the revised Chevy Volt and the incoming all new Chevy Bolt, the VW eGolf and the BMW i3 continue to grow their markets.
Since the Pacifica minivan is one of the biggest gainers in the Chrysler line up, it has become the ideal model to mainstream hybrid and electric for buyers. The minivan segment is making a modest comeback because it is so practical and flexible for family vehicle consumers.READ MORE: Giant Supermarket Chain Opening 4 New Stores In Philadelphia, Hiring 700 Employees
And so while it turns in respectable hybrid mileage stats — 80 miles per gallon equivalent and 30 miles of all-electric range — the Pacifica Hybrid focuses more on the bigger picture. Since the average daily driving range is 50 miles or less, this minivan barely exceeds its all-electric range once regenerative braking and kinetic energy recovery systems recharge the battery during driving.
So even with just an occasional plug-in using a standard outlet, this vehicle requires rare trips to the gas station for easily 98 percent of owners. In a test drive last week in the Santa Monica Hills, highways and coastal roads around Los Angeles, we logged over 6 hours of driving using just over an 1/8 of a tank of gas.
Combining an upgraded Pentastar V6 gas engine with a twin electric motor, electrically variable transmission, with electric and gas power driving the wheels, the Pacifica system favors efficiency and excellent performance over raw mileage stats.
That change of emphasis plus an extremely aggressive pricing strategy — with a lavishly equipped Pacifica Platinum edition coming it at $37,495 with the $7,500 federal tax credit applied — gives it a very strong take rate potential among buyers. And these are not necessarily buyers motivated to by hybrids per se.MORE NEWS: Philadelphia Officials Expected To Provide Update On Reopening Timeline Tuesday, Sources Say
It is worth noting that Chrysler has outflanked hybrid leader Toyota with the intro of the Pacifica hybrid minivan. Toyota and Lexus combined have 13 hybrid vehicles but not the highly competitive Sienna minivan.