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Consumers still favor gasoline-fueled cars, but most are open to options

Consumer Reports News: May 23, 2012 11:38 AM

Overall, the leading powertrain type under consideration by car owners for their next vehicle is a traditional gasoline-fueled engine. But taken together, nearly three-quarters of consumers will consider an alternative powertrain, such as a hybrid or electric, according to a new Consumer Reports survey.

The tried-and-true gasoline engine remains the most popular powertrain source. People are quite familiar with its operation, there are abundant car choices, and the infrastructure is well established, with gas pumps at nearly every town corner and highway exit.

That alternative choices collectively account for 73 percent of car purchase consideration speaks to consumers seeking options, and they are doing so for a variety of reasons. Clearly, motorists are feeling the pain at the pump, and 90 percent of respondents state that they are looking to reduce fuel costs with their next vehicle.

Powertrain Consideration %
Conventional gasoline 81
Flex-fuel (can use gasoline to E85) 41
Traditional hybrid 40
Natural gas or propane 34
Plug-in hybrid 29
Diesel 20
Pure electric 19

Alternative powertrains are more popular among consumers under age 55. Natural gas/propane is considered by significantly more 18-34 year olds than other age groups. At 43 percent, there is at least a 10-percentage-point greater interest among this age segment than among those 35 and older. Likewise, electric cars have greater appeal to those consumers in the 18- to 34-year-old range.

Although diesel fuel is readily available, and there are a handful of appealing models on the market, interest remains relatively low, with just one in five considering diesel in their next vehicle. Men are much more interested in diesel than women (28 vs. 11 percent). This may be influenced by heavy-duty pickup trucks that are often advertised and sold with diesel engines. Several manufacturers continue to explore offering diesel cars in the United States, and it is expected there will be more choices in the near future, adding appeal to this this alternative.

These are among findings from a random, nationwide telephone survey conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center in April, 2012, contacting 2,009 adults. The Center interviewed 1,702 adults in households that had at least one car.

For more insights from this survey, read: "High gas prices motivate drivers to change direction".

Survey shows high fuel costs cause downsizing, less driving
Consumers are willing to compromise to achieve better fuel economy
Consumers name their leading disadvantages of buying a fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel car
Car owners seek fuel economy solutions from the car industry, support from government

Jeff Bartlett


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