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Consumers are willing to compromise to achieve better fuel economy

Consumer Reports News: May 22, 2012 11:38 AM

To achieve their fuel economy goals, consumers are willing to make some sacrifices when choosing their next new car, according to our latest car owner survey about the impact of rising fuel prices.

Chief among them, more than half of car owners would compromise size or capacity with their next car. About half would concede amenities or comfort. On these facets, there were no significant gender differences, although those survey respondents whose household income is less than $50,000 were more willing to compromise than those from more-affluent households. These identified concessions would yield the expected fuel economy gains.

Moving down a size class can mean a significant reduction in weight and potentially a smaller, more efficient powertrain. For example, moving from a Honda Pilot to a Honda CR-V would gain 5 mpg overall, based on Consumer Reports' tests. Plus, the smaller vehicle would likely cost less to purchase, own, and operate.

Downsizing can mean sacrificing comfort, as there is generally less passenger space in a smaller vehicle. Reflecting the trend for consumers making such a shift, many newer, small vehicles offer a rich compliment of amenities.

Another way to save fuel with a new car is to cut back on performance, going from, say, a six-cylinder to a four-cylinder engine. However, the consumers we spoke with were less eager to make this shift. Interestingly, men were more willing than women to compromise on performance (45 vs. 29 percent).

Compromise Percentage
Size or capacity 58
Amenities or comfort 52
Performance 37
Safety 12
None of these 15

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