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Fuel Prices, Environment Drive Consideration Of Hybrids

U.S. consumers are more familiar with advanced propulsion systems compared to a year ago, with turbo gasoline direct injection, direct injection diesel and hybrid electric vehicles the best known systems, according to a new survey by market research firm Synovate.

Synovate surveyed 4,084 owners and prospective buyers in the US for an annual tracking study of consumer attitudes toward advanced propulsion and alternative fuel technologies. Despite the fact consumers want better fuel economy with their next vehicle purchase they are still looking for the value proposition with any of these new technologies.

High fuel prices and concerns about the environment influence consumers’ consideration of hybrid-electric vehicles, while these same concerns flatten direct injection diesel consideration. Consumers cite battery concerns as a leading reason for not considering battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles although many look past this issue for hybrids in general, driving it to its highest consideration ever.

Synovate found that after respondents had an opportunity to read about the pros and cons of each of these technologies, attitudes shifted – particularly in favor of plug-in hybrids and away from the traditional gasoline engine.

A key barrier to purchasing a vehicle that uses an alternative engine technology is the availability of fuel. Consumers remain convinced that filling stations need to carry the alternative fuel before they will consider buying a vehicle that runs on it. This perception has not changed in the past several years.

Consumers also consider Toyota and Honda the top two manufacturers in bringing these new technologies and alternatively fueled vehicles to market, with both rated significantly better than all other brands. Among energy companies, BP and Shell are perceived to be making the best effort at marketing alternative fuels, followed closely by ExxonMobil and Chevron.

Nearly two-thirds of American consumers will look for a vehicle that reduces their monthly fuel expense when considering their next purchase of a vehicle, according to the survey. What’s more, nearly three-fourths of respondents said they will consider paying $1,500 more for a vehicle that achieves 30% better fuel economy than a comparable model. The survey also revealed that consumers are willing to pay an extra $2,000 for a vehicle that is significantly better for the environment.

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