Yesterday, we looked at the auto majors' plans to rapidly ramp up their offerings of hybrid gas-electric vehicles over the next three years. These plans have a couple of underpinnings. First and foremost, the guys over in Detroit smell profits -- not diesel fumes -- in the news of how popular hybrids such as Honda's
But a second component to the story is one we're all seeing in the news, and at the pumps, every day -- oil prices topped $50 days ago and, despite the odd weak day, seem headed nowhere but up. That's great news for investors in Big Oil's brand names -- Exxon Mobil
Think about it, people. The higher the price for any product, the lower the demand. Some products -- such as gasoline -- have pretty inelastic demand curves, granted. But ultimately, if you raise the price of any product high enough, people will begin to cut back on their consumption. And vicariously, that's exactly what Detroit (and its Japanese competitors) are doing for American oil consumers. By making fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles a viable option for car buyers, "Big Auto" has started America along a trend curve toward reducing our demand for Big Oil's gasoline.
Investors should take note of the trend. Over time, sales of hybrid vehicles will rise; consequently, sales of gasoline will stagnate or fall. How big of a trend will this be, and how much could it affect Big Oil? Big, and a lot. Let's look at some numbers:
A recent study done by consulting firm Booz Allen predicts that within five years, 20% of the cars on America's roads could be hybrids; within a decade, the percentage could reach 80%. Two popular hybrids now on the market that have nonhybrid analogs -- the Ford
Read all about the developing war for hybrid vehicle dominion in these electrifying stories:
- Honda's Perpetual Motion Machines
- Toyota: Resistance Is Futile
- Toyota Versus Bill Gates
- Dealers Cash In on Hybrids
Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article.