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Study: Percentage of US New-Vehicle Shoppers Considering Hybrids Declines, While Diesel Consideration Climbs

16 July 2007

The percentage of new-vehicle shoppers who are considering a hybrid has declined as consumers become more realistic about the fuel efficiency capabilities of hybrid vehicles, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Alternative Powertrain Study.

However, actual sales of hybrid vehicles in the first half of 2007 increased more than 56% over aggregate sales in the first half of 2006, climbing to more than 181,000 units.

The J.D. Power study finds that 50% of new-vehicle shoppers are considering a hybrid—down from 57% in the 2006 study. While a general decline can be observed across all age groups, in particular younger vehicle shoppers, those 16 to 25 years old, appear less interested in the powertrain technology, with 60% considering a hybrid in 2007, down from 73% in 2006.

The average additional price hybrid considerers are willing to pay for this powertrain is $2,396, with the expectation of receiving an improvement of 18.5 miles per gallon (MPG) over a traditional vehicle of similar size.

In the 2006 study, we found consumers often overestimated the fuel efficiency of hybrid-electric vehicles, and the decrease in consideration of hybrids in 2007 may be a result of their more realistic understanding of the actual fuel economy capabilities. While hybrid sales are steadily increasing, they continue to face competition for market share against an increasing offering of other alternative powertrains and fuels options.

—Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power and Associates

The study also finds that consumer consideration for purchasing clean diesel vehicles, which were newly introduced to the market in 2007, is at 23%. In 2006, only 12% of shoppers considered purchasing diesel vehicles. On average, considerers of this powertrain are willing to pay an additional $1,491 for the clean diesel option and expect an average additional fuel economy of 15 mpg.

As the automotive industry steadily offers more alternative powertrain/fuel options to consumers, buyer preferences will continue to shift the market in the coming years. With high fuel prices, perceived dependency on foreign oil and an increased focus on environmental issues all being top of mind among consumers, manufacturers will not only have to continuously make efforts to produce more fuel efficient vehicles, but also to diversify the range of options.

—Mike Marshall

The 2007 Alternative Powertrain Study includes responses from more than 4,000 consumers in May and June 2007 who plan to purchase a new vehicle within the next two years.

July 16, 2007 in Diesel, Hybrids, Sales | Permalink | Comments (52) | TrackBack (0)

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Folks are starting to get it! Current gasoline-electric hybrids can't quite match the real-world efficiency gains per dollar available from newer, clean-diesels.

Of course, until hi-tech battery costs come down, clean-diesel-electric hybrids are the among the lowest hanging fruit that could get us +80mpg real-world cars.

However, I fervently applaud all efforts on all fronts to increase efficiency and decrease consumption of foreign oil.

Ride a bicycle and/or take mass transit when able!

I think some of the decline is the result of the article printed by idiots at Consumers Reports that (through a really elementary accounting error) concluded in big splashy headlines that hybrids don't pay for themselves. When they were shown their error, the retraction was buried in the middle of the next issue in fine print. Damage done.

I own a hybrid, and I get EPA number every day.... hmmm, I guess that doesn't make the sensational news. On the other hand, I read long term reports about "real world" diesel cars only getting a fraction of their promised mileage. Yet, since diesel isn't a mainstream read just yet, I guess we'll have to wait when same headlines will come again, only time time its diesels instead of hybrids.

I also have to laugh at this blurb:

"On average, considerers of this powertrain are willing to pay an additional $1,491 for the clean diesel option and expect an average additional fuel economy of 15 mpg."

None of the BlueTEC vehicles will come close to either numbers. I'd wait and see if new VWs can meet that requirement.

By all means, I think Americans SHOULD buy more diesels, especially for people who really need diesels for trucks. I do question the availability of biodiesels in the coming years, and I also doubt that diesels will stay cheap for long. I don't think hybrids are the cure, but I believe that hybrids bridges that gap toward electric cars, and diesels are best reserved for industrial purposes.

the Daily Telegraph recently printed a two page expose of the Toyota
Prius , listing all its faults ,none of which held any water , I know two
people who have purchased this car this year and both are delighted
and returning better mileage than advertised !
Why is it that this car stirs up such hatred among the motoring
press , could it be that the Prius is the first step in the evolutionary chain
to a cleaner and more responsable motoring future , I say long live the
Prius !
As an inhabitant of europe I can assure you all there is no such
thing as a clean diesel Bluetec or not , over here you see six month old
diesel cars emiting huge clouds of black smoke , Fords are particually
bad , diesels quite simply are not a solution !

If they could clean the smug emissions coming from hybrids as well as they've cleaned up what comes from diesels, hybrid consideration might go back up.

I'm really not interested in associating myself with the hairshirt environmental movement, which is why I won't consider a Prius, and I don't want to overpay to merely *look* clean, hence no Lexus hybrid. Most of the rest of the hybrid market suffers from some form of lameness.

That's why my next car is going to be a diesel.

Umm.... hybrid diesel?

Never sure about these polls. Depending on how they're worded, they can easily become push polls. Remember back, when all the competition told Toyota they were full of beans with their Prius. Having completely missed the hybrid boat, they stressed the superiority of diesel (coincidently the technology they had chosen).

If diesel technology is the best, put in hybrids. If diesel engines are capable of running on biodiesel, make them into biodiesel hybrids. But make them all plug-in hybrids.

The argument missing is the argument for plug-in hybrids. A current Prius derives 100% of its energy from gasoline. The most efficient all diesel vehicle in the world will still get 100% of its power from diesel fuel.

When either one of these internal combustion variants is slapped into a plug-in hybrid, everything changes. Then JD Powers can ask people if they'd like to plug their cars in to the grid for the equivalent of $.60 per gallon. Then JD Powers can ask if people would like to commute back and forth using power from their photovoltaics or wind turbines or micro Hydro setups.

If any company in the world ever makes a series hybrid, it should help people realize that the diesel, gasoline, alcohol, hydrogen, natural gas, butanol, biodiesel etc. etc., debates are all secondary because they're all just different methods of generating electricity.

"...which is why I won't consider a Prius..."

Ok, so why not buy a Civic Hybrid or an Escape Hybrid and remove the "hybrid" badge? I'm not trying to shame you, but just because you hate Prius for its image, then I don't see why you should exclude ALL hybrids.

It's hard to imagine the average person actually cares to any non-negligible degree about this. Polls are more about measuring the "bounce" from a PR campaign than they are a measurement of anyone's considered opinion.

Kind of pathetic the diesel lobby is so bent on this "other white meat" PR strategy; the thinking is very much "for diesel to win, hybrids have to lose." But, as Matthew's comment suggests, there's no law of the universe that says we couldn't have both.

No Car builder has yet to come out with a vehicle that will be the next giant leap forward. Whatever the body style it will have to be light. This means building with currently exotic materials.

It will employ Lithium-Ion batteries and have an on-board gen-set to keep the batteries charged when you exceed the battery storage range.

Currently, it looks like India or China will produce it first. The necessary technology already exists.

Ok, so why not buy a Civic Hybrid or an Escape Hybrid and remove the "hybrid" badge? I'm not trying to shame you, but just because you hate Prius for its image, then I don't see why you should exclude ALL hybrids.

Don't worry - I am not easily shamed. :)

The Civic and the Escape have problems unrelated to their hybrid nature - the Civic is a smaller vehicle than I want, and the Escape is a Ford *and* an SUV. I have an SUV now and don't particularly want another one, for reasons unrelated to gas mileage. The Camry hybrid might otherwise be good, except I loathe the styling.

I haven't driven one yet, but I'm pretty convinced that the diesel Jetta wagon is the way to go.

I think some of you are missing the point. Diesel's offer better mileage over gas engines of the same displacement. My 8,000 lb. diesel truck gets 15 mpg in town driving, a comprible gas engine gets 10 mpg. Run B100 and you have a very green vehicle. Also, diesel engines have a much longer life, you can easily go 200k to 300k before a rebuild. For me, a longer lasting engine keeps 2 trucks out of the landfill and keeps some green in my wallet.

Sounds like hybrid manufacturers need to go plug in or go home.

I wouldn't be too sure about that. 50% of new car buyers are considering the purchase of a hybrid, while only 2% of new car sales are hybrids. That means there's a huge upside for hybrid sales.

This diesel-mpg vs. gasoling-mpg comparison is mood...

By nature of the fuel, a diesel has to be at least 15% less consuming than a gasoline engine (or, turned another way, mpg has to be de-rated by about 15-18%, depending on exact fuel composition).

Also, the highly praised "clean" diesels merely meet T2B5-8 limits - and are not to be sold anyplace CAFE rules are implemented.

Typically, a gasoline hybrid gets are better CO2 footage (less CO2 per mile over a diesel, not necessarily mpg), and meets or exceeds T2B2 / AT-PZEV / SULEV, which no "clean" diesel will achive.

Of course, one could trade diesel efficiency vs. exhaust emissions (by putting even more expensive aftertreatment systems in, over the expensive and complex auxiliary systems required to get a diesel to operate anywhere near the maximum tolerable exhaust thresholds (high-pressure injection pump, AGR, Turbo, Soot filer, Urea-Denox, etc).

For economic reasons, with more stringent emissions requirements, diesels will come to a dead stop.

For economic reasons, when fuels are taxed by fossil carbon content, the artificial price benefit of diesel fuel will reverse, so that people will be stuck with a car, for which they have payed a hefty premium, to be filled up with expensive fuel, and get the honor to pay a premium on emissions-related car taxes...

(In europe, with diesel share of new cars more than 2/3, the tax regime is about to change - now it pays off for the governments to have that many diesel drivers in the population - and as others pointed out, even driving the most modern diesel cars, they cann't hide. One decent touch of the gas pedal, and the smoke plume will be the giveaway.

Anyone ever wondered, why light-duty vehicles are never tested with their engines under high transient load... (ie. decent start off a green traffic light)...

Light duty vehicles are tested under load in California. I don't know the specifics of how the chassis dyno is setup though. Sometimes in Washington as well...but I don't know when this applies since they just scanned for diagnostic trouble codes and didn't put me on a tailpipe sniffer for my 1999 vehicle.

realarms -- your analysis could be a little deeper. It could, for instance, include the fact that EROEI for gasoline is lower than that for diesel. It could recognize that dealing with NOx in the exhaust (as it is done with Otto engines) instead of just lowering the flame temperature could let diesel run more efficiently (Toyota claim peak thermodynamic efficiency for the current Prius is 37%; for their D4D 45%). It could recognize that one of the most promising approaches to increasing gasoline efficiency (lean burn GDI) has the exact same NOx problem diesel has. It could recognize that the Tier/Bin ratings have their own biases (eg, EPA knows that PM number is even more important than PM mass -- but they won't count number). The real problem with diesel emissions is that it took us so freaking long to deal with the sulfur in it (as it is, our cetane number is the lowest in the developed world). Emissions can be dealt with, even though we're starting so late. Initial costs will be high (same objections we heard back in the 70s with the catalytic converter); but the efficiency advantages are great enough that we should certainly encourage its use until we can get off fossil fuels altogether.

Typically, a gasoline hybrid...meets or exceeds T2B2 / AT-PZEV / SULEV, which no "clean" diesel will achive.

realarms - don't know to what time frame you're referring, but Mike recently posted a blog entry here on GCC about light-duty diesel vehicles being developed capable of meeting T2B2/SULEV/PZEV (http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/08/ricardo_develop.html#more), so it appears technically feasible.

Also, please explain why you don't think the much higher evaporative emissions for which gasoline vehicles (hybrids or otherwise) are responsible are not an air quality concern.

"...Don't worry - I am not easily shamed."

Great! So I'm curious, if VW makes a hybrid, which they say they have plans in development, would you still buy a Jetta Wagon Hybrid?

The focus here is that there are a lot of excuses about why hybrid is evil and bad, but in the end, it's still just a drivetrain. The rest are just branding and advertisement.

Too often, people are mixed with emotional projections when it comes to vehicle purchases. That may be fine in the past. But now, I'd rather see the public be more interested in getting off fossil fuels and start moving toward electric cars. The investments into hybrids also means investment into electric motors and automotive batteries. Diesel will still be around for a LONG LONG time, and it's better used in industrial applications than passenger cars.

Lastly, the argument for a supposed "longer life" of a diesel truck is weak at best. The value of a 20-years old VW Golf TDI is no more than $500. Old engines always pollute more and less efficient. Contrary to popular beliefs, most cars do NOT go to landfills. Anything metal probably will get recycled.

In my opinion, if an old diesel engines are so great, I think pro-diesel people need tell people NOT to buy any new diesel vehicles, but to hold onto their old diesels to prove the point.

I think the disenchantment with Hybrids is partly due to inaccurate claims of high mileage. The Prius gets about 45 gpm overall, and so those expecting near 60 MPH are disappointed. The hybrids in name only vehicles offered by some add only about 2 MPG, and that is not enough to support a highter resale value to recoupe the initial hybrid premium. And some folks like me may be waiting for the first OEM to bring out a lithium battery PHEV. When it hits the market, I think walk-in interest will skyrocket.

Sorry, in the above post, I wrote gpm when I meant miles per gallon, and I wrote MPH when I meant miles per gallon.

T2B3 and T2B2 SULEV PZEV are all possible for diesels. But Europe won't promulgate a T2B5 standard until at least 2017 and it's really not T2B5, its more like T2B6+ for the EU6 rating.

God only knows when they will get around to a real T2B5 or T2B3 or T2B2 diesel standards 2030? 2040? 2050?

The Greens always TALK a good show, but don't really DO anything. That is why the East Bloc is still such an environmnetal wasteland.

European Cities STINK of diesel.

It is like being stuck behind a smelly smoke emitting "mass transit" bus spewing diesel soot in the USA. But it is around the clock and everywhere!

WTF?

In my opinion, if an old diesel engines are so great, I think pro-diesel people need tell people NOT to buy any new diesel vehicles, but to hold onto their old diesels to prove the point.

So I'm curious, if VW makes a hybrid, which they say they have plans in development, would you still buy a Jetta Wagon Hybrid?

Depends on whether they also still offer the diesel version as well, along with the price differential between hybrid (I'm assuming a gasoline hybrid) and diesel.

All other things being equal, I'd probably still stick with the diesel. If I can get most or all of the efficiency of a hybrid without either the complexity of a hybrid drivetrain or a passing association with the holier-than-thou green crowd, that's fine by me.

"...or a passing association with the holier-than-thou green crowd..."

Uh huh. That's a really great thing to base a car purchase on.

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