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Study: Consumers Want Green Cars, Barely

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On: Mon, Nov 1, 2010 at 4:45PM | By: Chris Weiss

Study: Consumers Want Green Cars, Barely

Consumer Reports recently released the results of a consumer survey on green car buying that unveiled some interesting attitudes. The findings were originally presented at the GridWeek summit held earlier this month, a meeting of the stakeholders and players in the Smart Grid arena. While most consumers did admit to considering the green factor in a new car purchase, it's still not a primary a concern.

Despite bearing a disproportionate share of auto media coverage, green cars, like hybrids and electric vehicles, still make up a fraction of overall car sales. In 2009, hybrids accounted for just under 3 percent of the 10 million-odd auto sales in the United States.

With the growth of the segment that percentage will grow in the future, but it will be a slow ride. New numbers released this weekby JD Power and Associates predict that by 2020, hybrids and electric vehicles will grow to only 7.3 percent of global sales, up from 2.2 percent globally this year. Considering how many hybrids and electric vehicle concepts and debuts that we've seen over the course of the past year alone, it seems that the growing availability and selection of greener vehicles won't really inspire that many people to go green. Five percentage points over 10 years just doesn't seem like much progress.

Consumer Reports' survey asked 1,700 people at random about their attitudes on green cars. A tiny majority of them—51 percent—said that the eco-friendliness of a car was an important part of their buying decision. But green factor was one of the least important decision-makers in the survey, lagging behind more traditional considerations like cost, value, and quality. Green was the 11th (out of 12) most important factor as seen in the survey.

The survey also confirmed that range anxiety and distrust of electric vehicles is still a strong hurdle for the industry. Out of the 39 percent of respondents considering a hybrid or electric for their next car purchase, only 14 percent were considering a battery-powered electric. That was just 6 percent of respondents overall. Despite the fact that 63 percent of drivers lived within a 40-mile driving range of work, which would be covered by vehicles like the 100-mile-range Nissan Leaf, consumers still expressed traditional fears of getting stranded and limited power. J.D. Power and Associates findings mimicked these concerns.

J.D. senior VP John Humphrey summed it up: "Barring significant changes to public policy, including tax incentives and higher fuel economy standards, we don't anticipate a mass migration to green vehicles in the coming decade."

Despite the fact that electric vehicles are all the talk of auto shows and media reports, they remain a tough sell to the public.

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