Twenty-three percent of US car owners say that their interest in purchasing a hybrid vehicle has increased from a year ago, according to a new Harris Poll. 32% say they are interested and that their interest has not changed over the past year. However, even as new car buyers look more deeply into alternative fuel options, traditional combustion engine vehicles still get the nod by more than half (59%) of consumers as a vehicle choice they will consider for their next purchase.
The adoption curve for hybrid vehicles appears to wane with age. While nearly one-third (32%) of those under 35 years of age are more interested in alternative vehicle choices—including hybrids, diesels and electrics—than they were a year ago, the same can be said for only 15% of those over the age of 67; 11% of those 67 and older report that they are less interested compared to one year ago.
Among the alternative fuel choices for new automobile purchases, hybrid (gas/electric) vehicles win out with more than a quarter (26%) of car owners identifying that they will consider this type of alternative fuel vehicle for their next purchase.
Other alternative fuels are further down the list, as just one in ten say they would consider diesel (11%) or all electric (9%) automobiles for their next purchase. Almost two-thirds (63%) report that they, in fact, are not likely to consider diesel or all electric options at all for their next car purchase.
Alternative fuel choices are likely to be impacted by perceptions of the time frames needed to offset the premium of purchasing the alternative powertrain option. According to recent data produced by the 2012 Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST study, 32% of consumers expect that flexible fuel vehicles will see a return on investment in under a year. This compares to 14% for pure electric engines and 7% for clean diesel.
When asked what may be driving their growing interest for alternative fuel vehicles, more than half of those who indicate an interest in alternative fuel vehicles (55%) simply state that they want to save money on the cost of fuel purchases. This is higher among those between 18 and 35 (59%) than it is for those older than 67 (45%). Just a quarter (26%) of those with an interest report that this interest in alternative fuel vehicles is tied to their concern for the environment, while others (18%) share that they would like to see a reduction in dependency on foreign oil.
Beyond fuel choices, new car selection is also heavily based on opinions about vehicle quality. When asked about the vehicle quality of American-brand automobiles, more than one-third (35%) of car owners say that they find the vehicle quality of American brands to be lower than imports. Just under a quarter of car owners (24%) find American-brand vehicle quality to be better than imports, while 42% find them to be the same in quality.
Gender differences in attitudes towards American-brand vehicle quality show that more women car owners (27%) find American cars to be better in quality than imports compared to men (18%).
This survey shows that automakers are starting to win over consumer confidence in hybrid vehicles, especially with younger drivers. While this appears to be driven in large part by personal economic needs to reduce fuel expenses, automakers seem to be making a strong case for the performance and reliability of hybrid vehicles compared to traditional options.
However, the work has only begun. A majority of consumers will still consider traditional gas-powered vehicles for their next car and as automakers continue to improve gas mileage for these vehicles, the adoption rate for hybrid vehicles may see an impact. American automakers in particular need to continue their focus on building consumer trust while improving some consumer perceptions around car quality, regardless of its fuel type, to continue to attract new consumers in every demographic.—Mike Chadsey, Vice President, Automotive Solutions Consultant, Harris Interactive.
The Harris Poll included 2,634 US adults (ages 18 and over) of whom 1,991 own or lease a car, truck, minivan or SUV, surveyed online between 7–15 May 2012 by Harris Interactive.