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Autotrader Poll: Shoppers Want Alternative Fuel Cars to Look Normal

  • New poll shows that most shoppers want alternative fuel vehicles to look normal
  • Only a small minority want alternative fuel vehicles to have a “completely different” look
  • Alternative fuel vehicle success — and failure — seems to match up with the polling data

A new Autotrader poll shows that most car shoppers don’t want alternative fuel vehicles to offer vastly different styling from normal vehicles. In fact, more than half of the poll’s respondents said they want alternative fuel cars to look “the same” as normal vehicles, calling no attention at all to their alternative fuel status.

The poll, which surveyed nearly 800 different in-market car shoppers, asked drivers how much they want an alternative fuel vehicle to look like a gasoline version of the very same car. More than 51 percent of respondents said they want alternative fuel vehicles to look “the same” as a gas-powered car, while 13 percent said they’d be OK with a “slightly different” look.

Although 31 percent admitted that it “doesn’t matter” how similar or different an alternative fuel car looks, only 4 percent of those surveyed said they specifically want alternative fuel cars to look “completely different” from regular models.

That could explain the styling of many of today’s alternative fuel vehicles, which often do very little to call attention to their electric, plug-in hybrid or hybrid status. Several automakers, for instance, offer plug-in hybrid or electric versions of their normal cars with only a few subtle changes. This list includes the Ford Fusion Energi, the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid and the Lexus RX 450h. Other alternative fuel models, including the Tesla Model S, Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, come with only minimal “alternative fuel” styling cues or unusual adornments.

Supporting the Autotrader poll’s data, some of the biggest alternative fuel vehicle flops have been cars that deviated too much from the norm, such as the original Honda Insight, the Fisker Karma and the especially unusual Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

Still, with more alternative fuel vehicles popping up every year, it’s likely that even the 4 percent who want “completely different” styling will soon have something to choose from.

What it means to you: More alternative fuel vehicles are surely on the way, but if automaker polling is anything like ours, you probably won’t see too many radical designs coming down the pike.

Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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