Fuel Economy Most Important Feature for Car Purchasers

By Shannon Baker-Branstetter on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

A new survey from Consumer Reports showed keen consumer interest in fuel economy and continuing support for higher fuel economy standards.

Consumers are seeing high fuel prices at the pump and more desirable efficient vehicles in the show room–precursors for a significant market shift.  The survey found that 37 percent said their leading consideration when shopping for their next car will be fuel economy. A distant second was quality (17 percent), followed by safety (16 percent), value (14 percent) and performance (6 percent).

Two-thirds of owners surveyed said they expected their next vehicle to get better fuel mileage than the one they’re driving now. While gasoline costs (90 percent) were the number one reason cited for wanting a more fuel-efficient vehicle, more than half of respondents cited other reasons as well, including a desire to be more environmentally friendly (62 percent) and concern about dependence on foreign oil (56 percent).

Survey results also show that car owners are open to different ways of saving at the pump, from downsizing (particularly from large to small SUVs) to looking at hybrids, electric cars, or models with diesel engines.  About three quarters of participants said they would consider some type of alternatively fueled vehicle.

Consumers want to see even more fuel efficient vehicles come down the assembly line.  90 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “Auto manufacturers should offer a greater variety of cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles in the near future.”  And almost 80 percent think the government plays an important role and agreed “Fuel economy standards should require auto manufacturers to increase the overall fleet average to at least 55 miles per gallon by 2025.”  Consumers realize that these gains will cost money, but over 80 percent agree they are willing to pay extra for a more fuel efficient vehicle if they can recover the additional cost through lower fuel costs.

This summer, the federal government is expected to finalize new fuel efficiency standards that would reach 54.5 miles-per-gallon by 2025.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted the random, nationwide telephone
survey in two waves, April 5-7 and April 12-15, 2012, contacting 2,009 adults. The Center interviewed 1,702 adults in households that had at least one car.

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