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Harris Poll: 23% of US car owners say more interested in purchasing a hybrid than one year ago

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.



Sustained higher gas price and prolonged economic recession seem to have an effect on the sale of more fuel efficient vehicles. Since both of those factors will not go away soon, more fuel efficient vehicles including HEVs, PHEVs and BEVs will have increased sales soon.


Without any test of the participants understanding of hybrid vehicle technology these polls are simply useless evaluations of the propaganda efforts being put forth by both supporters and detractors of the technology. What do the participants base their opinion on? Is it what Rush Limbaugh says, or is it what Elon Musk says? How about what Bob Lutz says? Or, did they do a thorough investigation of their own and determine the cost effectiveness of the technology. I suspect their opinions are based on some very superficial criteria.


I suspect that more and more people have seen hybrids, know someone who has a hybrid, or have test-driven a hybrid.  As direct experience grows, the influence of propaganda wanes.


If 50+ million/year tablets and as many electric bikes can be sold, why couldn't we sell 50+ million hybrids and/or electrified 4 and 4+ wheel vehicles a year, to replace part (5.5%) of the current 900,000,000 ICEVs in use.


How do you consider the fact that current hybrid owners are very unlikely to purchase another?

I attribute that to the premature exposure to this raw and unfinished technology. Even among the most ready to consider alternatives to the ICE auto, the drawbacks and limitations of the current state of this EV technology is wearing enough, to extinguish the urge for such technology, in succesor vehicle purchase decisions.

Perhaps when the tech is more mature in 5-15 years, and the costs less excessive, such tech will be better received.


D....Toyota's HEVs use very mature technologies (15-years), are extremely reliable, have excellent performances, have been mass produced (over 1.200,000 units), cost are approaching equivalent ICEVs, most owners would buy another one, etc etc. All your wishes seem to be met?


I forgot to mention that none of the 50,000,000 tablets sold in USA are built in USA.

The Electric Vehicle Information Exchange

People will become more interested in electric drive vehicles if the industry – including manufacturers, utilities and governments – understand what their needs and wants are AND then deliver. The Electric Vehicle Information Exchange is conducting a study to help the industry understand consumers’ shifting sentiment and behavior regarding EVs. Be part of the conversation and take the survey:

The Electric Vehicle Information Exchange

EVIX just published the findings report from its national, consumer electric vehicle survey, which was conducted from July to September. If you took the survey, thank you for participating. For anyone who is interested, the summary report is available to download at

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