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By Barbara Kessler

If you’ve been considering diving into the hybrid car market, the 2008 model year will tempt you as never before, especially if you still want or need a multiple seat vehicle. Toyota’s top-selling SUV hybrid, the Highlander, has gotten a redesign for 2008. Ditto the Ford Escape Hybrid. Also coming in 2008: General Motors will be rolling out a panoply of new models throughout the year, including a Tahoe SUV Hybrid touting new hybrid technology developed with BMW and DaimlerChrysler that’s expected to improve gas mileage by 25 percent. (Some of GM’s new models are more tempting than others, granted. The new Chevrolet Malibu hybrid officially debuted this month to disappointing reviews because its EPA-estimated gas mileage of 24 mpg/city and 32/highway barely bests its non-hybrid version.)

Still queasy about hybrid technology? Don’t forget the government has a tonic called tax credits. To see what the different models can reel back in from Uncle Sam, check the IRS news release from October. Another source for info on hybrids and tax credits is www.fueleconomy.gov. The credits are phased out after a model sells 60,000 vehicles, which ironically could deter consumers from the tried and true hybrid leaders like Toyota’s Prius, whose tax credits will be expiring. As the IRS tells us: “Taxpayers may claim the full amount of the allowable credit up to the end of the first calendar quarter after the quarter in which the manufacturer records its sale of the 60,000th hybrid or advance lean burn technology in many cases.’’ In other words, consult your accountant.