Just as Toyota SA launches the award-winning petrol-electric hybrid Prius in South Africa, Nissan Motors’ chief executive Carlos Ghosn has strongly criticised the technology, saying that the high costs associated with it make very little sense in today’s world.

Just as Toyota SA launches the award-winning petrol-electric hybrid Prius in South Africa, Nissan Motors’ chief executive Carlos Ghosn has strongly criticised the technology, saying that the high costs associated with it make very little sense in today’s world.

Going against popular belief, Ghosn recently said that hybrids “make a nice story but they are not a good business story yet because the value is lower than their costs”.

Despite his harsh words about the future of hybrid technology, Ghosn also announced that Nissan would be producing a petrol-electric hybrid version of an existing saloon for the US market in 2006. According to he added that the model was only intended to help Nissan comply with tough fuel economy and emissions standards in some US states, and the model was not expected to be one of the company’s money spinners.

In his speech before a dealer convention in the US, Ghosn reported that of the 16,9 million light cars sold in the US last year, only 88 000 had been hybrid vehicles. He said that hybrids still constituted a niche market and, though models made by Honda and Toyota were in high demand, production levels were still relatively low.

Ghosn also lambasted what many believe to be the next great automotive breakthrough – fuel cell technology.

"The cost to build one fuel cell car is about $US 800 000 (R4 800 000). Do the math and you figure out that we will have to reduce the cost of that car by more than 95 per cent in order to gain widespread marketplace acceptance," Ghosn reportedly said.