Attention hybrid shoppers. If you want a gas-electric Honda, you'd better get to a dealership soon.
On July 1 the tax credit for all Honda hybrids will be reduced yet again.
The Honda tax break started its mandated phaseout on Jan. 1. That day, the original credit amounts for each Honda hybrid was cut in half, and that lower level continues for purchases made through June 30.
But after that, the tax savings will be just a quarter of the original amounts.
The table below shows the Honda hybrid credits for eligible vehicles bought last year (and which still can be claimed on 2007 returns by taxpayers who got an extension until Oct. 15 to file their returns), hybrids purchased in the first half of 2008, and vehicles bought on July 1 or later.
Credit When Purchased By 12/31/07
|2007 Accord Hybrid AT
|2007 Accord Hybrid Navi AT
|2007 Civic Hybrid CVT
|2008 Civic Hybrid CVT
Honda hybrid buyers this year will claim one of the two 2008 credit amounts on the returns they file next year.
And if Honda hybrid aficionados don't buy one before 2009 begins, then they'll be out of luck, as the credit zeros out next Jan. 1.
Hybrids are hot: There are two groups that are actually happy about $4 per gallon gasoline: oil companies and auto dealers, especially those selling hybrids.
As the pump prices have increased, drivers are rushing to trade in gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles. That doesn't necessarily mean everyone wants a hybrid; in many cases, a smaller, newer, more energy-efficient auto will do just fine.
Some folks, though, want to go all the way when it comes to gas savings, and that's usually a hybrid.
Here in Austin, hybrids are as hot as our early summer 100-degree-plus temperatures. In fact, according to the Austin American-Statesman, the local demand for hybrids is outstripping supply.
Get in line: The most sought after hybrid is no surprise. Most folks want a Prius.
But many of them will have to be patient. In some cases, drivers will have to wait for months to get behind the wheel of the popular Toyota gas-electric vehicle.
It's nearly as bad for other makes.
One Honda dealer told the newspaper that customers usually have a six-week wait; if they're picky about the color, it could take up to three months. He didn't specify what was the hard-to-get hue.
Size still matters to Texans: But this is, after all, Texas. So small isn't for everyone.
One Austin Chevrolet dealer reports that more of its customers are interested in the hybrid SUV Tahoe, blogged about here when it was named 2008 Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles auto show, rather than the smaller Malibu hybrid.
"I think it's just Texans," GM dealership owner Chuck Nash told the Statesman. "They want to hang on to their SUV, and they want to get the very best mileage they can."
Tax credit help: One bonus for Tahoes and other Chevy, General Motors, Ford, Mercury, Nissan or Mazda hybrids is that tax credits for these IRS-certified vehicles are still at their original, full amount. Depending on which make and model you choose, that could mean substantial savings.
Even with reduced 2008 credit amounts, Honda hybrids still offer a nice tax benefit to many drivers. This IRS Web page has links to news releases and fact sheets on the various tax breaks for hybrids and other alternative fuel vehicles.
However, In some cases, as evidenced by Austin hybrid hunters, the credit doesn't matter. Toyota hybrids, from the uncontested champion Prius to gas-electric Camry, Highlander and luxury Lexus models, are still big sellers.
Sure, few of us will turn down a tax break, but we take many considerations into account when we decide which car we're going to buy.
Or, as a Toyota spokeswoman told me in this story I wrote for Bankrate.com, "We think that the tax credit is really nice. But we're not sure that it really influences a buyer. There's a combination of factors that makes a hybrid a popular choice right now."