Shown here is the Infiniti QX56, the model leased by Gov. Linda Lingle's office.
Despite mileage, SUV will be leased to Lingle
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Gov. Linda Lingle will ride out the rest of her term in a luxury sport utility vehicle, after the state recently reached a new lease agreement on a 2008 Infiniti QX56 to replace her 2004 Ford Expedition.
Although the purchase of a vehicle that gets 12 mpg in city driving might seem questionable at a time of record-high gas prices, Chief of Staff Barry Fukunaga said it was more cost-effective overall.
The administration's first choice was a hybrid electric SUV, but the lease contract was put out for competitive bids and the monthly rate on the hybrid was about $500 higher than the $938 offered for the QX56.
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At a time when skyrocketing gas prices are cutting into U.S. sales of full-size vehicles, Gov. Linda Lingle will ride out the rest of her term in a luxury sport utility vehicle.
List of 2008 vehicles considered by the state to be fuel efficient
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The Governor's Office recently reached a new lease agreement on a 2008 Infiniti QX56 to replace a 2004 Ford Expedition whose lease expires at the end of this month.
Although the purchase of a vehicle that gets 12 mpg in city driving might seem questionable at a time when the statewide average for regular unleaded is at a record $4.34 a gallon, a key Lingle adviser says it was more cost-effective overall.
Chief of Staff Barry Fukunaga said the administration's first choice was a hybrid electric SUV, but the lease contract was put out for competitive bids and the monthly lease rate on the hybrid came back almost $500 higher than the Infiniti model. The Infiniti is being leased at a monthly rate of $938 over the next three years.
"The reality is the governor only drives a little over 400 miles a month," Fukunaga said. "There wasn't going to be any real payback for the cost of the (hybrid) vehicle.
"Unfortunately, we were unable to go with the hybrid, which would have been nice."
The base price for the QX56 is $52,450, with a 5.6-liter V8 engine. The cost to fill up the 28-gallon tank, at yesterday's Honolulu average of $4.24 a gallon, would be just over $118.
By comparison, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann's 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which is part of the city's fleet, averages 18-24 mpg, according to Toyota's Web site. A fill-up of its 19.2-gallon tank would be about $81.
Fuel efficiency is a topic of discussion everywhere as pump prices push into numbers never before thought possible and crude oil trades well into the triple digits.
Hawaii has sought to become a leader among states in reducing its dependence on oil and other fossil fuels. Lingle spearheaded legislation approved two years ago that aims to reduce Hawaii's dependence through conservation, development of alternative fuel sources and other steps.
Lingle also pledged the state would lead by example, converting fleets to more fuel-efficient vehicles and examining other ways to reduce energy costs, which have increased along with the price of oil.
In accordance with the 2006 law, "the procurement policy for all agencies purchasing or leasing motor vehicles shall be to obtain vehicles less dependent on petroleum," according to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
The business agency has compiled a list of 2008 vehicles considered to be fuel-efficient.
No Infiniti vehicles are included in the list.
The list includes five hybrid electric SUVs, which all average at least 24 mpg.
"The governor has been a leader in energy initiatives," said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter. "In particular, the 2006 lead-by-example measure positions state government as a leader in clean energy and energy efficiency.
"We would hope that would extend to all aspects of the administration."
Fukunaga said that when the request for bids went out, it did not specify make or model.
Lingle has said previously that she would prefer a simpler vehicle, but the governor's car has to be able to accommodate her security guards.
Fukunaga added that the governor has little say in the final selection.
"She leaves it up to her security detail to decide what they're looking for in terms of size and performance," he said.