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Derek Harris

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Hybrid Vehicles Winning Over Consumer Confidence

Saving Money on Fuel is Top Reason Consumers are Interested in Alternative Fuel Vehicles

New car owners have increasing interest in purchasing a hybrid vehicle over traditional combustion engine vehicles, according to a recent Harris Poll study. One-third of car owners (32%) report they have an interest in purchasing a hybrid vehicle and 23% say that their interest in hybrids has increased from a year ago. Even so, 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.

"Automakers are starting to win over consumer confidence in hybrid vehicles, especially with younger drivers," said Mike Chadsey, Vice President, Automotive Solutions Consultant, Harris Interactive. "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."

The adoption curve for hybrid vehicles does appear to wane with age. While nearly one-third (32%) of those under 35 years of age are more interested in alternative vehicle choices than they were a year ago, the same can be said for only 15% of those over the age of 67. In fact, 11% of those 67 and older report that they are less interested compared to one year ago.

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.

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.

"The work has only begun," added Chadsey. "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."

Alternative fuel choices are likely to be impacted by consumer 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.

More Stories By Derek Harris

Derek Harris Sr. is a senior technology writer and blogger with more than 20 years experience in journalism.

While covering a broad spectrum of technology segments, his focus is weighted on enterprise technologies in the data storage, security and infrastructure spaces.