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Car Buyers Increasingly Factor in MPGs

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author photo by Autotrader May 2011

With fuel prices rising rapidly, Americans are eager to save money at the pump, but two recent studies show we might just be a little more desperate than previously thought.

A recent study conducted by J.D. Power shows that buyers of high-mileage economy cars and hybrids aren’t quite as concerned about the environment as they are about saving a few dollars at the pump. According to the study, which surveyed more than 4,000 car shoppers, 75 percent of respondents indicated the main interest for buying a hybrid is fuel savings rather than helping the environment.

The same was true for consumers considering electric cars, who cited decreased dependence on foreign oil and positive environmental impact as their second and third priorities after the lower cost of electricity versus gasoline. Shoppers interested in diesels also cited lower fuel costs as their primary reason for considering the efficient vehicles.

“About two-thirds of everybody we talked to said, ‘I would consider one of these alternatives, and the general reason is I’m looking for ways to make things more economical for me,’” said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, J.D. Power’s executive director of global vehicle research.

Another fuel efficiency survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for plastics initiative Plastics Make it Possible, also found that buyers are heavily prioritizing gas mileage. The survey, which asked more than 2,400 adults about their car-buying decisions, concluded that an astonishing 78 percent identify fuel efficiency as a driver in their choice, with safety coming in second at just 63 percent.

Despite the knowledge that buyers are intent to save money at the pump, J.D. Power analysts believe it will be years before hybrids and electric cars becomes as widespread as gasoline-powered cars. That’s because consumers looking to save money typically won’t pay the higher prices currently commanded by hybrid and electric cars, leaving them for buyers looking to save the environment – still a very small piece of the pie.

“The reality is most of them will have to walk away because with the price premium they can’t put that money down now,” said VanNieuwkuyk. “They want it, but they just can’t do it.”

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Car Buyers Increasingly Factor in MPGs - Autotrader