Interest in Hybrid Cars is Rising, Even as Interest in Diesel Falls ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Interest in Hybrid Cars is Rising, Even as Interest in Diesel Falls

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Interest in Hybrid Cars is Rising, Even as Interest in Diesel Falls

The latest J.D. Powers and Associates Alternative Powertrain Study indicates 70 percent of consumers want manufacturers to invest in existing and emerging powertrain technologies.  80 percent of consumers believe the US is already in an energy crisis, but they are split on how to deal with it.

18 percent believe car companies should focus on small vehicles with better fuel economy, but 39 percent believe manufacturers should focus in on developing emerging technologies such as fuel cell and electric vehicles.  Approximately 30 percent believe the current line-ups should be changed over to diesel, hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles.

62 percent of the respondents are interested in hybrid technology, up from 50 percent last year. Flex-fuel vehicles interest fell from 47 percent to 43 percent, while clean diesel interest declined from 23 percent down to 16 percent. That big drop in diesel may come from the spike in diesel costs over the past year.

It's easy to understand why the interest in hybrid cars is increasing.  When you look at the pros and cons of hybrid cars and then compare them to the alternatives, most people quickly fall on the hybrid technology side.

The Alternative Powertrain Study examines the reasons why consumers consider or avoid alternative powertrain vehicles, such as hybrid, flex fuel and clean diesel fuel models. The study includes the Automotive Environmental Index, which combines U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publicly available information related to fuel economy, air pollution and greenhouse gases for 2008 model-year vehicles and J.D. Power and Associates' voice of the customer data related to stated fuel economy. Feedback from verified vehicle owners is also used to help determine the relative importance of these environmental factors.

"Nearly 80 percent of consumers believe that gas prices will continue to rise, which will have a significant effect on the vehicles they will consider," said Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, some consumers still want more than small cars to choose from in the auto market. They still want their SUVs and pickup trucks, except with better fuel economy and more environmentally friendly."

Among the top 30 models in the Automotive Environmental Index, Toyota has the highest number of vehicles (6), followed by Chevrolet, Honda and Nissan with three models each. All of the vehicles can be found in my list of fuel efficient cars.  Additionally, eight models in the Automotive Environmental Index top 30 are hybrid-electric vehicles. It should be noted that not all hybrids are built for fuel economy, but those that are tend to float to the top of any such list.  They are:

  • Ford Escape Hybrid
  • Nissan Altima Hybrid
  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • Lexus RX 400h
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid
  • Mercury Mariner Hybrid
  • Toyota Prius
The remaining models in the Top 30 Automotive Environmental Index are:
  • Chevrolet Aveo
  • Hyundai Accent
  • Nissan Sentra
  • Smart Fortwo Coupe
  • Chevrolet Aveo5
  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Nissan Versa
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Chevrolet Cobalt
  • Kia Rio
  • Pontiac G5
  • Toyota Matrix
  • Ford Focus
  • Kia Spectra
  • Pontiac Vibe
  • Toyota Yaris
  • Honda Civic
  • MINI Cooper
  • Saturn Astra
  • Honda Fit
  • MINI Cooper S
  • Smart Fortwo Convertible
The following statement from the J.D. Powers press release is pretty interesting:
"It's also interesting to note that among hybrid vehicles included in the top 30, all but one model receives a consumer-reported miles per gallon rating that is lower than the stated EPA rating," said Marshall. "However, for the 2008 model year, the EPA has implemented a new methodology for estimating mpg, which has resulted in much smaller variances from consumer-reported fuel economy than seen in previous years."
It makes me wonder what the rate is for all vehicles, not just hybrids. The EPA rating system takes a lot of heat from consumers and analysts, even though it has been revamped. But it's still better than self reported fuel economy figures.  Your fuel economy depends on the individual driving the car a lot more than most people think. Take a look at hypermilers, for instance, and then tell me about the EPA rating system.

The 2008 Alternative Powertrain Study includes responses from more than 4,000 consumers who plan to purchase a new vehicle within the next two years. The web-based study was fielded in May and June 2008. The voice of the customer components of the Automotive Environmental Index are derived from the 2008 Alternative Powertrain Study and the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Initial Quality Study(SM).

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