Paying premium for the ultimate status car: A hybrid

I've never really been a status symbol kind of guy. I usually shop at discount stores, wear cheap sneakers and, until my wife started openly mocking me, used to buy Wrangler jeans. I would argue that I have my own distinctive style. Others might refer to it as "charity chic."

This goes double when it comes to cars. Historically, my rides have tended to display a certain flair, a certain je ne sais freaking quoi, a certain verve.

Of course, others might refer to this elusive quality as "rust."

That having been said, I loved my 20 year old Mercedes, my 15 year old Mustang and my ten year old Cadillac Seville, even as I squeezed the last few miles from each of their engines. If people weren't impressed with the amazing awesomeness of my rides...well, let's just say that cool is a state of mind; some have it and some don't. I never really understood the idea of buying a ridiculously expensive car that looks like pretty much every other ridiculously expensive car. Hummers? Give me a break--why not just buy a surplus tank? BMWs? Save the money and take her to a nice restaurant!

My idiosyncracies aside, prestige automobiles are a very real trend and the cars that people drive often say a great deal about who they are, or at least who they think they are. However, now that gas is starting to rival single-malt scotch in terms of price, people who have used Hummers, Ferraris and Bentleys to overcompensate are finding themselves generating more sneers and fewer smiles. Under these circumstances, a very strange trend has developed. The latest prestige rides are hybrids. In fact, the demand for hybrids has reached such a level that the waiting list for a Camry hybrid in Long Island is six to eight weeks. In New York City, the wait for a Toyota Prius is two to four months.