Anyone with a business mindset can appreciate how a turbulous market can give rise to niche venture. Last June crude oil hit an all time high at $126.33 per barrel. For the same month in 2007, a barrel sold for $59.25. With the worst energy crisis in 30 years, Americans were forced to rethink their lifestyles, and with that a new niche was created. As American auto companies struggle to stay afloat, foreign automakers are importing their progressively efficient vehicles into the U.S. Starting as early as next year, three import vehicles will make their American debut.

The Piaggio Group, manufacture of the Italian Vespa, will release its plugin hybrid scooter next winter. With a fuel economy of 140 mpg, this scooter relies on its rechargeable battery and limited gas reserves to operate. The new import is expected to cost roughly the same as an all electric scooter, about $8,000 to $9,000. However, the older scooters can only drive about 50 miles until it has to recharge. These new Vespas will bring a touch of Roma into our towns and neighboorhoods months before an American company can compete.

If a two seated scooter is not big enough for your needs, then you might want to check out the new Honda Insight. Debuting on Earth Day, 2009, it is the most cost efficent hybrid on the market. At $20,000 the Honda Insight gets 60 mpg and is $2,000 less than the Toyota Prius, prompting Toyota to redesign its hybrid. Much more conventional looking than its predessor, the Insight appeals to the environmentally concious American family.

Unlike the Insight and the Vespa, the Norweigan manufactured Th!nk, will take more than a year to hit the highways of the U.S. Previously owned by the Ford Company, Th!nk is an all electric vehicle that follows a plan of sustainability by releasing zero emissions. Plans to release a fleet of vehicles will begin this year in The Netherlands. However, in the US they are waiting on funding from the Department of Energy, to begin plant construction. Talks are underway with eight states to determine where the estimated 16,000 cars will be manufactured each year by nearly 900 employees. If approved by the DOE, Th!nk will mass produced electric vehicles, making them more affordable and transforming the American auto industry.

During times of uncertainity, it has always been American innovation that has lead the world to prosperity and stability. However, as we increasing become gloablized, it is the innovation of other countries that has begun to transform America. Unless American auto companies can revolutionize their products, foreign automaker will maximize in our market.

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