Most U.S. car owners want to cut the nation’s oil consumption and dependence on foreign oil. But few are willing to pay more for a fuel-efficient or environmentally friendly car. Those are some of the findings of a new survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
Nearly 80 percent of survey respondents said they would “strongly support” or “somewhat support” a national goal of reducing oil consumption. And more than 70 percent said they would support increased government funding for measures aimed at achieving that goal. Still, 94 percent named a high purchase price as a deterrent to choosing an “environmentally friendly or green” vehicle.
It is clear from the survey that personal economics are driving purchase considerations. Thinking about their next new car, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents expect to choose a model with better fuel economy than their current vehicle, and among them, 82 percent indicated that lower fuel costs are a motivating factor. The second highest share, 59 percent, named a lower purchase price as a reason for choosing a car with better fuel economy.
Taking the pulse of American motorists on fuel economy issues, the Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted 1,713 random, nationwide telephone interviews of adult car owners.
A majority of survey respondents want the government to take the lead in cutting the nation’s oil use and increasing fuel economy: 79 percent would support increased government investment in public transportation, plus funding research and infrastructure development for alternative-fuel vehicles; about three quarters would favor increasing tax rebates for consumers on fuel-efficient vehicles and alternative-fuel vehicles; 72 percent favor funding development of walking/biking communities; and 7 in 10 favor the government’s main strategy today of raising fuel economy requirements for automakers.
But while our respondents were supportive of government efforts to spend tax dollars, they were much more reluctant to spend money on their own personal fuel economy improvements. Only 40 percent of respondents support a gas-guzzler tax. Just 14 percent of interviewees would support an increase in the gas tax or imposing a new tax on miles driven. When we asked about levying a tax on oil companies based on the amount of fuel they produced, just under half the respondents agreed.
Fuel economy is a high priority
Among survey participants, 80 percent listed fuel economy as an important factor in choosing their next vehicle, and 40 percent listed it among the top three most important factors.
The most important considerations overall were:
When it comes to personal choices, 63 percent of vehicle owners said they expect to choose a more fuel-efficient car next time. Some of the reasons were surprising.
Predictably, 82 percent aim simply to reduce their fuel costs. However, 59 percent listed a lower purchase price as a reason for choosing a more fuel-efficient car, recognizing that many fuel-efficient cars are smaller and less expensive to buy. Fifty-five percent said they just wanted to be “environmentally friendly or green.” And just over half (51 percent) cited the desire to reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil.
Just four percent of respondents said they expect their next vehicle to be less fuel efficient. They had a variety of reasons, mainly related to their lifestyle needs, including carrying more passengers, towing, and needing more cargo space.
The median fuel economy our respondents reported for their current vehicle was 24 mpg.
By far, the most respondents, 29 percent, feel Toyota builds the greenest cars—a sentiment consistent with our annual Brand Perception Survey. This trend was especially notable among wealthier respondents (with household incomes over $50,000) and those living in the West, and less true among older respondents (55 and older). Ford and Honda were distant runners-up at 12 percent. Most car brands failed to garner more than a one-percent share.
Which automaker builds the greenest cars:
Overall, Americans’ opinions about fuel economy haven’t changed much in recent years. Their pocketbooks still seem to be driving their interest in more fuel-efficient cars, though there is strong support for a significant government push to reduce the nation’s dependence on petroleum. Still, even when consumers can expect to save on fuel costs, purchase price remains very important.
Next up, we’ll take look at further survey findings that reveal American drivers’ interest in alternative-fuel vehicles.