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Harris Interactive: European Car Buyers Want Fuel Economy, but Not Hybrids

While fuel economy is a top concern for European buyers, hybrids are not as considered.

A new automotive study conducted by Harris Interactive in the five largest European countries shows that enhanced fuel economy is the top automotive technology vehicle owners say they are very or extremely likely to purchase for their next new vehicle (41%).

This is consistent with findings from a US-based study, also conducted by Harris Interactive, showing that nearly half (47%) of vehicle owners are very or extremely likely to purchase a new vehicle with enhanced fuel economy. However, Europeans are less likely than their US counterparts to say they are very or extremely likely to purchase a new vehicle with hybrid electric technology (20% vs. 30%).

Overall, the European market appears much less interested in hybrid technology versus what we see in the United States, especially when considering the cost that it adds to a vehicle. European consumers already enjoy access to fuel-efficient diesel-powered vehicles and are looking beyond hybrid technology.

—Bryan Krulikowski, Senior Director of Automotive and Transportation Research, Harris Interactive

In fact, European respondents are significantly more likely to say they will purchase a fuel cell vehicle (28% say they are very/extremely likely) than a hybrid (20%). Italians show the greatest purchase consideration for this technology as almost half (48%) say they are very or extremely likely to next purchase a fuel cell vehicle.

The key factor, however, is affordability. While purchase consideration for fuel-efficient technologies is high among Europeans in the five major markets, the additional cost they place on a vehicle makes them less attractive.

Harris Interactive conducted this online survey in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy and Germany between February 15 and March 20, 2006 among a total of 19,382 adults aged 18 and over. Qualified respondents had to own or lease a vehicle, have a valid driver’s license, have at least one household vehicle and own a listed European model dated 1998 or newer. Figures for age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, income and region were weighted where necessary to align with population proportions. Propensity score weighting was also applied to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.


Bud Johns

Today's Diesel technology is wonderful, the US would greatly benefit from making it mainstream. A super efficient diesel with idle stop would be a great thing.. by the way, I drive a Prius and it is NOT for sale...

Joseph Willemssen

Might have something to do with the fact that they have access to much smaller, fuell-efficient vehicles than the US market. I bet you'd get similar responses in Japan.


This survey shows the level of ignorance of the average car owner. Or people doing surveys for that matter.

Where do they think they can buy those the fuel cell cars? Will they postpone the purchase of their next car until such a vehicle becomes available? Were they told this is future technology, still years off? Perhaps the Italians liked the sound 'fuel cell vehicle' more than 'hydbrid car'. More Star Trek like.

Oh boy. Had they included the option for a 'flying car', they would have concluded that in 10 years time we could dismantle our road system.

Prius for me

Ignorance indeed. May have something to do with the fact the majority of Europeans drive European cars and we all know how many Daimler, BMW and VW/Audi hybrids are currently available.


Most Europeans probably still translate HEV as “Horse Engined Vehicle”


I own one of the small european diesel cars the europeans seem to consider more than hybrids (2005 Golf TDI). I also own a Toyota prius. I think that respondents that chose small diesels over hybrids probably never drove a hybrid. The Prius gets slightly better fuel economy, is slightly larger(mostly rear seat room) and has an automatic transmission. The price difference between these 2 was less than $2,000. After experiencing both vehicles it seems like a no-brainer to me.


Most Europeans are indifferent to auto transmissions.

Plus I'm willing to bet that the 05 Golf TDi is a damn sight faster than a Prius.

Many Europeans also have to consider parking space size and may not want a vehicle the size of a Prius.

Plus to us the Prius looks like a MPV (Minivan to you guys) and for many people, thats just not the image they wish to have.


Joseph Willemssen

Plus I'm willing to bet that the 05 Golf TDi is a damn sight faster than a Prius.

You'd lose that bet. Plus the Jetta is the same size class as the Prius, not the Golf.

Volkswagen Golf TDI - 1.9L turbodiesel (100 hp) 5A + ABS
0-60... 11.51 seconds
1/4 miles.... 18.50 seconds
1/4 mile speed... 74.50 mph
Braking 60 - 0 mph... 141 feet

Volkwagen Jetta TDI - I5 1.9L (100 hp) 6DSG + ABS
0-60... 11.65 seconds
1/4 miles.... 18.60 seconds
1/4 mile speed... 76.20 mph
Braking 60 - 0 mph... 127 feet

Toyota Prius sedan - hybrid 1.5L gasoline + electric (76 + 67 hp) CVT + ABS
0-60... 11.43 seconds
1/4 miles.... 18.54 seconds
1/4 mile speed... 78.00 mph
Braking 60 - 0 mph... 137 feet

ref 1
ref 2
ref 3

I've test driven all these cars, and no one would ever claim any of them to be quick.

Many Europeans also have to consider parking space size and may not want a vehicle the size of a Prius.

That's one of the odder objections I've ever seen. There's plenty of cars longer than the Prius in Europe. It's shorter than the Honda Civic, the Ford Focus, BMW 3 series, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, etc.

ref 4

Rafael Seidl

Citroen has a few small diesel cars with microhybrid capability (engine stop/start only). The objective is to reduce PM and NOx emissions in city driving, plus fuel savings of ~5%. Mild and full hybrids with diesel power plants are too expensive and heavy. Besides, people buy diesels mostly to get decent mileage on the freeway where hybrids are of little benefit.

However, it is quite possible that mild/full gasoline hybrids will find greater acceptance in Europe if:

(a) they are styled and marketed by European carmakers (especially German ones, see below)
(b) they are introduced in large sports gasoline powered limousines
(c) they increase the fun-to-drive factor (principally, low end torque)
(d) they focus on recuperation/boost efficiency rather than all-electric range
(e) they contain at least one key innovation (e.g. ultracaps for storage)
(f) they actually reduce CO2 emissions

The last point may be surprising to you. However, the recent run-up in oil prices (in US dollars) have not resulted in substantial price increases at the pump in Europe. This is a consequence of high fuel taxes and favorable exchange rates against the US currency. The savings rate is also substantially higher, so higher fuel prices typically do not cause immediate hardship.

On the other hand, Europeans are for the most part quite concerned about (the potential for) climate change, in particular a possible collapse of the Atlantic gulf stream. Being seen to contribute appeals to customers in this vehicle segment as long as there is no performance penalty.

Automakers here have voluntarily committed themselves to a target of 140 g/km CO2 fleet average by 2008, a 25% reduction relative to 1995. So far, it looks like they will miss this target, raising the specter of formal CO2 regulation by the EU. Avoiding this is a key near-term R&D objective.

In Germany, the annual vehicle license fee is a function of the ICE's displacement. Hybridization permits extra power at the same fee level, but so do large turbochargers. The two approaches are somewhat complementary.

Paul Dietz

In Germany, the annual vehicle license fee is a function of the ICE's displacement.

How do they define that for Atkinson-Miller cycle engines in which the compression and expansion strokes have different volumes? (Example: the engine in the Prius.)


That’s exactly what we are talking about: European public seems to be totally unavare what hybrids are all about. Even at its infancy (compared to diesel technology), Prius features:

Electromechanical continuously variably transmission without single clutch, capable to vary wide gear ratio and even go in reverse without any shifting. Engine is working at incredible low RPM even at freeway speed, instaneously revving to max torque band when you floor the throttle. At cruise car is incredibly quite. Computer operated transmission could imitate performance-like throttle response with high rate engine braking feel, only braking energy is mostly (70%) returned back to battery.

Such a drivetrain allows use most efficient Atkinson cycle gasoline engine and high throttle opening (high efficiency) at any speed. Engine crankshaft is offset for even better efficiency. During approach and stop at traffic light, engine is switched off, and battery is operating all power auxiliaries (power steering, etc.) and air conditioning. At gentle start vehicle is driven by electricity along. When additional power is needed, engine is started by integrated starter-generator instantly in about 0.2 s. During braking most of the energy is returned back to battery, and because of this brake pads life is at least doubled. Overall engine wear is less then half of regular car due to start-stop feature and low RPM during cruising. No engine overheating and excessive wear is possible when you are stuck in traffic. Special cooling system assures that engine is kept warmed-up at prolonged stops.

Prius is partial zero emission vehicle according to California (most stringent) regulation – it is virtually less polluting then cigarette lighter. Fuel tank has internal collapsible bladder and fuel system is non-return, which 100% eliminates fuel evaporative emissions and makes fuel tank NON EXPLOSIVE.

As it is extensively tested, notably by AutoSpeed Australian performance junkies – and they are best in the world, Prius offers incredible good rolling acceleration, sharp start and throttle response, and actually feels like it has much more horsepower. Compared to VW Jetta (Bora) diesel, it is much lighter, has more max hp, has notably better performance, use less fuel, has twice longer engine oil change intervals, and cost less. Electric motor acceleration assist offers instant and very high torque at acceleration, feature comparable with so called high low-end torque of diesel engines.

For couple of years hundreds of Priuses were used as taxi in Vancouver, and proved to be bullet-proof reliable, economical, and batteries, surprisingly even for Toyota engineers, last more then 300 000 km of city driving. Reported high cost of battery replacement are highly inflated, because in reality it is just bank of Ni MH D cells which become better and cheaper every month.

In addition, Prius does not pay London congestion charge.

fyi CO2

"Plus to us the Prius looks like a MPV (Minivan to you guys) and for many people, thats just not the image they wish to have."
Some day (hopefully soon) the environmentally challenged people on this earth will be less concerned with image-
how does the image of hurricane Katrina sit with you?


Hopefully, Americans will benefit from the European mentality that small vehicles are an ok "look":


FS, Ph.D.


Hopefully, Americans will benefit from the European mentality that small vehicles are an ok "look":


FS, Ph.D.


We are talking about Europe. You can not compare a US TDI to a EU TDI. The EU TDI is a fuel sipping tiger. It smokes the US TDI and the Prius in every catagory.


fyi CO2

"The EU TDI is a fuel sipping tiger. It smokes the US TDI and the Prius in every catagory."
by "smokes", do you have any data to compare in the category of CO2 tonnage/emissions?

fyi CO2

Never mind Joseph,
buried at the bottom of the vwvortex article is,
"Volkswagen of America tells us the 150hp version of the 1.9l TDI is by far the most expensive to produce and also the trickiest in regards to making it pass our emissions, so unfortunately we won't be seeing it here."
Another wannabe NASCAR driver with a Euro bend has to keep his little rocket in his pocket, so sad..


Actually the new regulations make the TDI obsolete. The argument between TDI and Prius is dumb anyway, who cares about a mile or two either way. I prefer the pull of the diesel and have been getting 45+ mpg since 91, TDI since 97. What I really want is:

a diesel/hybred 4 door sedan plug-in with compact solor cells intergrated in the top of the car with compression launch assist that goes 0-60 in sub 6 seconds and gets 95 MPG on canola oil.

But the bluetec technology, ULSD and BioD might be the best I get for now.


I am a European. We know all about hybrids, but tend to buy diesels because here (in Ireland) hybrids are expensive to buy and there are loads of diesels available - in all classes. In many cases, when a new car is announced, there will be more diesel engines than pertol available for it (and NO hybrids).

I would summarize the hybrid vs diesel situation as: hybrids are better in town with stop start driving, diesels are better for longer runs. In Europe, diesels are a mature technology which has just got a lot better in the last few years with common rail injection diesel technology.
Diesel and hybrid can be combined, yeilding the best of both worlds: this has not yet happened with a production saloon, but it will and this will yeild even better MPG. Plug in can be combined with the lot to provide probably the most efficient car currently conceived.
We are both approaching the goal, but from different sides.
Cheer up.

diesel power

where i live if you need a car for work you can claim back the tax on diesel but not on petrol this makes a big difference in the fuel cost, also a lot of diesels can get better mpg than any present hybrid, but this will change with a plug in
thats why europeans use diesel

Bud Johns

The Prius does not even HAVE a transmission!! They call it CVT, but the engineers call it power split device. It would work in no other car.....it's just an incredibly small computer controlled planetary gear set that sends the power every which way! No maintenance either......do your homework. It's like no other system on the planet.

Roger Pham

Ah hah, I see it now. European prefer diesels over hybrids because diesel fuel is much cheaper than gasoline, due to higher taxation on gasoline. Kinda like in the USA, SUV's and Minivans are classified as trucks and hence exempt from 27.5mpg CAFE consideration. Totally arbitrary and unfair.


fyi CO2: Joseph's TDI info is a bit out of date.

Here's a more "state of the art" TDI in the EU:


CO2: 165g/km, 20% over the EU fleet average target. Keep in mind that this one is the 4WD model Golf, so the FWD should be better - lighter and lower transmission losses.

Oh, and it does "smoke" the Prius: 0-60 in 9.3.

You may now return to your scheduled auto-enthusiast bashing.



You got it right. Americans did not accepted diesel because it was dirty (and still is dirtier then SI). Makes sense. Europeans did not accepted hybrids because they considered diesel better. Does not make sence: hybrid is drivetrain configuration, and diesel is engine. Hybridization of diesel powered vehicle will benefit it almost to same degree as petrol-driven. Mild hybrids – start/stop, acceleration assist, and regenerative braking, are quite primitive technology, are long overdue, and should be universally used for at least ten years on all cars –diesel or not. Sad to see how delusional and negligent was our society in that respect.

Toyota Prius is another thing altogether. It is brilliant synergy of three mutually enabling elements: electric hybridization, efficiency optimized engine, and infinitely variable electromechanical transmission. It is truly technological marvel.

Unfortunately, America has nothing to do with hybrids, except for fast acceptance: it is totally Japanese technology and innovation.



guess what will happend with performance and fuel efficiency if this Golf add hybrid drivetrain?

But if you fill smarter because you prefere apples over oranges, be it.

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