Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Vehicles that run on alternative fuels just now making their way into the market offer “a real opportunity to present our customers with different powertrain choices,” says Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Auto Dealers Assn.

Schienberg points to alternative-fuels concepts on the floor at the New York International Auto Show as examples of vehicles that could be in showrooms of tomorrow.

Although some skeptics question whether such vehicles will sell, Schienberg is optimistic about their chances, particularly as oil supplies dwindle and gasoline prices rise to unprecedented levels.

“A lot of the success of alternative-fuels vehicles will have to do with the marketing by the auto companies,” he tells Ward’s. “Clearly, Toyota (Motor Corp.) has shown that with hybrid-electric vehicles. Now they have customers on waiting lists.”

While selling cars that are powered by means other than gasoline will require training dealership personnel, the sales staff won’t be in the dubious position of trying to sell products customers don’t want.

“Consumers are generating the conversation about alterative fuels. When you have that coming together with dealership personnel knowledgeable about the products, it gets interesting,” Schienberg says, noting biofuels are garnering a lot of attention, and “electric vehicles seem to be making a comeback.”

Some auto makers are touting clean diesel engines, but the challenge there is to convince consumers these are not like their smoke-belching predecessors. “It’s a bit of a struggle, but it’s changing,” he says.

“It will be interesting to see if we switch to one dominant alternative fuel of the future, or if it will be decentralized with different offerings,” Schienberg adds.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com