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Polls Suggest High Gas Prices Pushing Changes in Driving and Purchasing Behavior

13 October 2005

A series of surveys by Maritz Research’s Automotive Research Group (ARG) finds that increases in gas prices are affecting all aspects of consumers’ behavior as it relates to their vehicles, including changing driving habits and vehicle purchase/maintenance decisions.

In relation to the increase in gas prices over the past year, significantly more people said they are reducing unnecessary driving (79% in 2005, compared to 65% in 2004), not going on long trips or vacations (52% in 2005 to 39% in 2004) and driving more conservatively (73% in 2005 to 63% in 2004) this year, compared to 2004.

Furthermore, two-thirds of the respondents said that gas prices have had an effect on the size of vehicle they think about buying. Nearly half (45%) agreed with the statement, “I think about buying or have bought a smaller vehicle.”

Although trucks still make up more than 50% of new sales, the trend is moving toward smaller vehicles within a purchase class (i.e. from a large SUV to a medium SUV, from a medium SUV to a small SUV) rather than a major shift to cars.

Regarding vehicle consideration, the segments predicted to suffer the largest losses were full-sized vans, full-sized pickups and medium-sized cars. The winners were small SUVs and compact pickup trucks.

Now that gas prices are spiking up to $3 and beyond, as opposed to the gradual increases of last year and earlier this year, a recent trend has some Americans ending their SUV love affairs.

However, as the initial shock of the highest gas prices in many consumers' lifetimes wears off, I suspect we could see small SUVs and light pickup trucks win the popularity race.

—David Ensing, Ph.D., director R&D, ARG

The Maritz surveys also reveal what price points would determine changes in driving habits and vehicle choices.

  • More than 94% of consumers stated an intention to drive less when gas prices reach $2.76 per gallon

  • 85% stated they would think about purchasing a more fuel-efficient vehicle at $2.75 per gallon;

  • 93% would shop for a more fuel-efficient vehicle as soon as possible at $3.22 per gallon.

However, 59% of respondents said they would not consider buying a diesel vehicle. Maritz also asked about the appeal of various other powertrain types and, while 27% did not state a preference, hybrids were mentioned the most (24%) followed by fuel cells (12%). Gas blends (10%) and diesel (7%) were the next most appealing choices for alternatives to gasoline in the minds of consumers.

Apparently biodiesel was not called out as a discrete option.

Maritz’ Automotive Research Group conducted three surveys examining the effect gas prices have on the way Americans are using their vehicles and the vehicles they are considering for purchase. In August 2005, 1,009 adult owners and drivers of vehicles were surveyed in an online Maritz Poll. The results were compared to a similar Maritz Poll of 1,014 adult owners and drivers of vehicles conducted in August 2004. Also, in a separate February 2005 study, 39,000 consumers who had purchased new cars in the past 90 days responded to questions regarding their perceptions of gasoline prices. The U.S. average price for regular gasoline in August 2004 and 2005, respectively, was $1.85 per gallon and $2.58 per gallon.

Resources:

  • Car Buyer’s Notebook has a roundup of gas-price related stories here.

October 13, 2005 in Fuel Efficiency | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

What cracks me up/frustrates me is that so many drivers could save significant fuel by simply
* making sure their tires are properly inflated
* not accelerating aggressively from stop lights
* not braking accessively entering congestion
* not speeding, particularly on short trips where you're talking about saving seconds of time, not many minutes or hours.

Not to mention significantly decreasing the chances of being in an accident from pursuing all the measures you noted. Heck, though, if people aren't willing to do these things to protect their own life/safety, should we be surprised when they don't do them to protect their pocketbook?

Throw out the C.A.F.E. standard!
Maybe the Government should ban the advertisment of cars getting less than 20MPG, and than raise it 1MPG per year? Or is this a free speech issue, even though oil is not free?
Nothing will change our car buying habits and our lust for oil because the oil-fired automobile is the heavily advertised solution to sexual attraction and ego.
Hell! even the C.A.F.E. average went down this year.
Sure, GM will sell the mild hybrid. But THE problem is still there: Our economic dependence on oil.
ONLY our Government can force the required research for long term energy self-sufficiency. To mis-quote R.R.; the Government IS the solution and not the problem.

Actually, hybrids might be an interesting solution. As someone else noted on another thread hybrid models often have better performance than their standard counterparts. I think the Accord is one such vehicle. It might not get Prius like MPG but it does better than the standard Accord, so it's something.

For some reason, diesel fuel is far more expensive than even premium grades of gasoline right now. It's no wonder that people don't see switching to diesel vehicles as a money saving option.

Long ago I read, but have been unable to confirm, that a gallon of diesel fuel requires more crude oil, on a well to tank basis, than does a gallon of gasoline. That's supposedly why there are more BTUs per gallon in diesel fuel than gasoline. Does anyone (eg, Mike) know if this is correct? If so, perhaps the push for diesels might need to be rethought.
Thanks.

Well, I wouldn't look at it quite that way. It all depends on the refinery process and the type of crude with which you're working.

For example, simple distillation of a light crude oil like Arab light can yield about 20 percent of the lightest, gasoline-like products, and about 50 percent of the heaviest, the residuum. After further processing in the most sophisticated (and thus expensive) refineries, the finished product output is about 60 percent gasoline, and 5 percent residuum. Diesel is about in the middle (middle distillate).

Those relative yields will differ, though, based on the characteristics of a specific crude oil.

Part of the issue is that the US is set up to maximize production of gasoline--and that, combined with increasing diesel usage elsewhere in the world, leads to some tighter diesel supplies.

Refiners can change that mix--that's what they're doing in Europe to meet increasing diesel demand--but it takes time, money and comes at the expense of gasoline supplies. (Which, as an aside, is going to make it "interesting" for the US, since we import gasoline (of which they need less, given the diesel boom) from Europe.)

" * not accelerating aggressively from stop lights"

stomv, I'd be happy if they stopped accelerating _towards_ stop lights.

Perhaps it's easier to give diesel cars a try if you never owned the slow, stinking oil-burners of the last generation. We don't remember the self-destrictive GM diesels or the slow-poke German models of the last gas crisis, or the sulfurous stench of diesel on our shoes.

My experience, the past three years of it, comes at the wheel of a VW Golf TDI. After owning a dozen gassers, I can say I'd prefer this engine (or an appropriately larger version of it) in every car I drive for the next decade. A cold TDI makes a rude first impression, but in minutes the toasty turbodiesel is far better than the gas Golf (and I owned one of those too). It's stronger, long-legged and long-winded climbing I-70 over the Continental Divide, happy to maintain 80 all the way. Much quieter too, since it's running 800 rpm slower than the 2.0. And clean, running renewable biodiesel, which costs me $3.05/gal, 20 cents less than dino diesel. No, I don't have greasy soot all over the hatchback. And when a hybrid owner is shopping for a mult-thousand dollar battery pack replacement, my car will just be broken in.

I'm grateful for what I don't know about diesel cars!

Perhaps it's easier to give diesel cars a try if you never owned the slow, stinking oil-burners of the last generation. We don't remember the self-destrictive GM diesels or the slow-poke German models of the last gas crisis, or the sulfurous stench of diesel on our shoes.

My experience, the past three years of it, comes at the wheel of a VW Golf TDI. After owning a dozen gassers, I can say I'd prefer this engine (or an appropriately larger version of it) in every car I drive for the next decade. A cold TDI makes a rude first impression, but in minutes the toasty turbodiesel is far better than the gas Golf (and I owned one of those too). It's stronger, long-legged and long-winded climbing I-70 over the Continental Divide, happy to maintain 80 all the way. Much quieter too, since it's running 800 rpm slower than the 2.0. And clean, running renewable biodiesel, which costs me $3.05/gal, 20 cents less than dino diesel. No, I don't have greasy soot all over the hatchback. And when a hybrid owner is shopping for a mult-thousand dollar battery pack replacement, my car will just be broken in.

I'm grateful for what I don't know about diesel cars!

We, in California, cannot buy small diesels, which is one of the reasons we buy Toyota Priuses (though I'm not sure the 200,000 mi maintenance cost on a VW diesel is actually going to be lower than a Toyota Hybrid. I've owned both VWs and Toyotas.)

Anyway, more bad news:

13th October 2005

The Gasoline for America's Security Act, which was narrowly voted in by the US House of Representatives last week, would reduce the number of fuel formulas refiners must make in various parts of the USA from 17 to 6, with the aim of reducing the overall cost of diesel.

The legislation may be a stumbling block for car manufacturers hoping to market ‘clean’ diesels in the US market reliant on ultra-low sulphur diesel to protect catalysts and emission control sensors.

more here

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Thank you for sharing this! I myself have felt this sting. Those rising gas prices ate up my dentist visit this year I wonder if I could sue the oil companies for 'making my teeth fall out'. Ha! probably not but, something needs to change, most of us can't live like this.

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