Value and reliability have been bedrocks of the CPO industry since its inception — now you can add eco-friendly to the mix. And could the emergence of green vehicles into popular certified pre-owned programs possibly come at a better time?
With gas prices through the roof, certified hybrids and clean diesel models save considerable money both at the dealership and at the pump.
Flashy diesel rides such as the BMW 335d and brawny Mercedes GL350 Bluetec are starting to roll into certified-used programs. So is the popular Audi A3 TDI — voted Green Car of the Year in 2009 and seen as something of a game-changer in the blossoming luxury diesel segment.
“The Audi A3 TDI offers it all,” said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and editor of GreenCar.com. “This compact luxury car features an impressive EPA-estimated 42 mpg on the highway — a 50% highway fuel efficiency improvement over the standard gasoline engine A3. “
Still young but growing fast, the green CPO segment was inaugurated a few years ago when Toyota introduced its Certified Used Hybrids program, separate from its regular CPO program. It was an industry first and indicated that gas-electric hybrids had finally been around long enough to start showing up on CPO lots.
It took a bit longer than you might expect, since hybrid owners tend to hold on to their vehicles quite a bit longer than others, said Norm Olson, sales operations manager for Toyota’s certified used vehicle sales program.
“Prius drivers are especially loyal and tend to hang on to their cars,” he said. Considering the Prius is rated at 50 mpg, is it any surprise? And when they do trade it in, it’s probably for another hybrid.
“Once people buy a hybrid, they almost never go back to a non-hybrid,” Olson said. “Our certified hybrid program is a great way to get people into the segment — a big opportunity to reach masses of entry-level buyers.”
Long a sales leader in the green market with the segment-dominating Prius, Toyota is beefing up its certified lineup with other green models, including a hybrid version of the popular Camry. They’re all covered by Toyota’s standard CPO warranty, as well as eight-year/100,000-mile protection for the hybrid battery. And the inspection covers 174 points — 14 more than the regular CPO program.
For now, Toyota has the only standalone hybrid CPO program, but other nameplates are seeing a flood of hybrids surging through their certified pipelines.
Lexus — a pioneer in high-end hybrids — has a handful of certified models available, including the RX 400h SUV, which debuted for the 2006 model year. The RX 400h offers a spacious and elegant interior, with full SUV versatility and a powerful 3.3-liter V-6 engine rated up to 33 mpg — about that of a compact car. Introduced in 2007, the Lexus GS 450h is a high-performance sports sedan with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 292 horsepower and 25 mpg.
Can’t overlook the Honda Civic Hybrid, a super-efficient version of the wildly popular Civic that’s rated up to 45 mpg. It’s been around since 2003, so there are plenty on the CPO market. A quick search on Cars.com, in fact, recently displayed 50 certified Civic Hybrids available in L.A. and Orange counties.
For those who think big and bold as well as green, the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid offers all the style and flash of the original luxury SUV along with 50% better fuel efficiency. That’s 22 mpg highway and 21 in city — quite respectable for a sexy full-size beast packing a 6-liter V-8 rated at 332 horsepower. And it can tow up to 5,800 pounds.
A leader in the compact SUV pack, Ford’s Escape Hybrid is a popular certified contender with spectacular fuel efficiency. Introduced in 2005, it drew raves for its 36 mpg city/31 mpg highway rating. Advanced safety features — such as roll stability control and Safety Canopy side air-curtain technology for the first and second rows — all come standard on the Escape Hybrid, making it a good choice for families. Enhancing its green credentials, it meets strict Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV II) standards.
More Escape Hybrids are being traded in than ever before (most likely for new Escape Hybrids) which is good news for certified shoppers.
Since their U.S. debut in 2007, clean diesel models have made impressive strides and earned critical accolades — along with a trendy next-big-thing cachet.
The segment’s bestseller, the sporty Jetta TDI has been lauded by critics and drivers for its 41 mpg economy — 40% better than the regular Jetta. VW quickly followed it up with a 2010 Golf TDI, a diesel-sipping compact with a 2-liter engine that produces 140 horsepower and 42 mpg fuel economy. The Touareg SUV, meanwhile, is available with a turbocharged 3-liter V-6 diesel engine that produces 407 pound-feet of torque — far outpacing the gas-driven Touareg.
Jumping into the diesel segment in 2009, BMW rolled out its twin-turbo 335d, packed with everything the iconic 3 Series has to offer, along with 36 mpg highway — a 35% improvement over the gas-only 335i, BMW claims.
Mercedes-Benz offers an expanded Bluetec lineup, including the R320 and R350 crossovers and the E350, a spirited sedan with a 3-liter V-6 turbo-diesel engine rated around 210 horsepower.
Certified savings and miserly fuel efficiency point to a bright future for CPO clean diesel vehicles. And there’s the all-important cool factor to consider, said Mike Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain forecasting and research for J.D. Power and Associates.
“Clean diesel is getting to be popular with Hollywood and the entertainment industry, the people who set trends,” Omotoso said. “When you see Mercedes-Benz Bluetecs in music videos and pulling up to red carpet events, you know it’s hot.”
—Bob Young, Custom Publishing Writer