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Autobytel Survey Says Consumer Demand for Hybrid Versions of Vehicles Remains Strong

March 13, 2003

According to Autobytel's annual "Green" survey measuring consumer attitudes on fuel-efficient vehicles, 90 percent of online auto shoppers would consider buying a hybrid-engine vehicle, if it was offered in the same model as the car or truck they currently drive. This finding, which is consistent with last year's survey, ­suggests that a significant spike in U.S. hybrid sales (tallying only 36,000 in 2002) might be near, as major automakers prepare to manufacture hybrid-powered versions of several of their established, popular models. Online automotive shoppers, like those polled in this Autobytel site survey, now represent approximately two out of three of all new vehicle buyers, says Autobytel. "Our active Net shoppers are in the car-shopping trenches, so they're good trend indicators," said Autobytel Inc. executive vice president and chief marketing officer Andrew Donchak. "The survey indicates that the current OEM strategy to 'hybridize' popular models is right on track. We conducted a similar survey a year ago, which produced a similar response. The difference between then and now is that automakers have had time to ramp up to meet this strong consumer preference." The number one reason cited by Autobytel survey-takers for not buying a hybrid was the unavailability of hybrids in the models they like. This trumped all other considerations, including concerns about increased price and compromised features (power, safety, size, etc.). Additionally, nearly half (46 percent) of those surveyed cited the availability of a hybrid version of the model they want as the single factor that would most influence them to buy a hybrid. Again, model comparability (i.e., styling and features) outpaced performance comparability as the factor that would most compel them to buy ­ with only 36 percent of respondents citing "confidence that the hybrid will perform comparably to a traditional gas-powered car" as their most powerful incentive to buy a hybrid. Donchak noted that these findings will likely be welcomed by the array of major automakers that are rolling out hybrid-engine-powered versions of some of their most popular models, including Honda, which took the lead last spring with the introduction of the 5-passenger Civic Hybrid, and GM, which will begin selling hybrid versions of the full-size Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra pickup later this year. GM is also developing hybrid versions of the Chevy Malibu sedan (for 2006) and the Equinox (for 2007). The fact that 54 percent of those surveyed by Autobytel are current SUV owners ­ and the implication that these consumers would consider buying a hybrid SUV ­bodes particularly well for the pending debuts of the hybrid-engine Ford Escape and Saturn VUE. Continuing the hybrid SUV trend, Lexus plans to unveil the first luxury-branded hybrid, the RX330, in 2005. The Autobytel survey found that 40 percent of shoppers link fuel economy to our national interests, dovetailing with current industry trends that suggest a growing concern for fuel efficiency. First quarter sales reports reveal that sales of several of the largest SUV models, across brands, are dramatically down. Sales of full-size pickups are also off. Smaller models in the SUV and truck categories, on the other hand, have gained market share. Autobytel's 2003 Fuel Economy Guide: A One-Stop Information Source for Spending Less at the Pump
This trend toward smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles could become more pronounced as gas prices climb. For consumers interested in learning more about current and upcoming hybrid models and other fuel-efficient vehicles, Autobytel's cost-free Fuel Economy Guide provides a wealth of information. The guide features: an in-depth buying guide for current and future hybrid models, informative articles about hybrid and other emerging clean technologies, expert fuel saving tips, overviews of the top ten "fuel sippers" and "gas guzzlers," a link to the EPA Fuel Economy Guide, and more. More than a quarter of Autobytel survey respondents indicated that they either don't know enough about hybrids or that they need more confidence in hybrid technology to actually buy a hybrid car. The survey also revealed that 71 percent of shoppers prefer an independent all-makes website as their chosen source of information about hybrids ­ dramatically more than any other source. Concluded Donchak: "With our 'Fuel Economy Guide,' Autobytel is fulfilling a consumer mandate to provide the information they need, from a source they trust." SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 90 percent of respondents would consider buying a hybrid vehicle if the vehicle they currently drive were available in a hybrid version.
  • 40 percent of respondents felt people should think about fuel economy in relation to the national interest.
  • 46 percent of respondents would be most influenced to consider buying a hybrid, if they could get the model (styling and features) they want in a hybrid.
  • 75 percent of respondents were somewhat to very informed about hybrid vehicles.
  • 37 percent of respondents would be willing to pay an additional $1,000 or more for a hybrid vehicle.
  • 75 percent of respondents felt they would find the most accurate or extensive information for research on hybrids using websites that provide information about all makes. For more information visit the "Research Area" at Autobytel.com, Autoweb.com, or Carsmart.com and click on 2003 Fuel Economy Guide. Or go directly to www.autobytel.com/content/research/index.cfm?action=showArticle&aid=138443. About Autobytel Inc.
    Autobytel Inc., an Internet automotive marketing services company, helps retailers sell cars and manufacturers build brands through marketing, advertising and CRM (customer relationship management) tools and programs. The company owns and operates the automotive websites Autobytel.com, Autoweb.com, Carsmart.com and automotive research center, AutoSite.com, as well as AIC (Automotive Information Center), a provider of automotive marketing data and technology.
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