With 30 percent of new-vehicle buyers
indicating that they would "definitely" consider a hybrid electric vehicle
and another 30 percent indicating a strong consideration, hybrid vehicle
technology is getting a solid "green light" from consumers, especially among
women, according to the J.D. Power and Associates Hybrid Vehicle Consumer
The study provides answers to three core industry questions about
hybrid vehicles: 1) In which vehicle segments do consumers want hybrids
offered; 2) What will cause them to purchase; and 3) How much are they
willing to pay?
Survey respondents indicate that they want a hybrid
powertrain option in the same segment as their current vehicle. For example,
a hybrid SUV is the most popular first choice vehicle segment for a hybrid
option among current SUV owners, while a minivan hybrid is the first choice
among minivan owners. However, regardless of the vehicle they currently own,
nearly all consumers surveyed select a midsize car as their second most
popular choice for a hybrid.
"A hybrid option in the high-volume midsize car segment would
provide manufacturers a broad-based growth path to the mainstream market,"
said Thad Malesh, director of the alternative power technology practice at
J.D. Power and Associates.
Concern over fuel prices, the high level of U.S. dependency on
foreign fuel supplies, a federal tax incentive and concern for the
environment are the primary motivators behind consumer consideration to
purchase a hybrid vehicle, according to J.D. Power and Associates.
The number one reason for considering a hybrid is concern over high
fuel prices, and a detailed analysis of fuel prices indicates that as
expected, consumer interest in hybrid vehicles increases as gasoline prices
rise, according the company.
Though price and costs play a critical role in the acceptance of
hybrid vehicle technology, the study shows there is a greater willingness to
pay for hybrid vehicles than previously believed. Consumers expect to pay
more for a hybrid than they would for a traditional gasoline-engine vehicle.
Some consumers, such as small car owners, are willing to pay more than other
buyers. Of those who would consider a hybrid electric vehicle, nearly
one-third indicate they would still buy one even if the savings from reduced
fuel costs during their ownership period would be less than the extra cost
of purchasing the hybrid option.
Consumers also indicate that their appetite for hybrids would
increase if the federal government helped offset some of the additional
costs. Consumers not only see a federal tax credit as important to their
decision to purchase a hybrid, they also expect the credit to be nearly
equal to the additional cost for the hybrid option over that of the
While women tend to be substantially more interested in hybrids than
men, the lack of available information and education is the main barrier for
purchasing one, according to female respondents.
"Women are definitely interested in hybrid vehicles but are
deferring their decision to purchase because they don't know enough about
them," Malesh said. "Manufacturers should be working to better educate
consumers on hybrid technology, especially among women."
On the other hand, male new-vehicle buyers surveyed also indicate a
strong interest in hybrids but are concerned that these vehicles will lack
"The lack of consumer understanding underscores the challenges
automakers face in gaining acceptance of hybrid technology," Malesh said.
"Many people still think hybrid vehicles are the small, expensive,
limited-range electric vehicles that they saw or heard about in the 1990s.
Approximately two years after the launch of the first hybrids in the United
States, nearly one-half of the survey respondents still incorrectly believe
a hybrid vehicle needs to be plugged in to recharge the battery pack."
In comparing consumer expectations of hybrid vehicle acceleration,
fuel economy and emission levels with those of a gasoline-powered vehicle,
respondents clearly show a need for more information about hybrids.
Respondent comfort levels with various hybrid vehicle operating
features-such as idle-off at a stoplight, higher voltage batteries and
consumer expectations regarding the length of the battery pack
warranty-highlight additional educational requirements.
Overall, the introduction of two gasoline-electric hybrid models
into the U.S. market has increased awareness of hybrid technology. The Honda
Insight and Toyota Prius, as well as other announced hybrids such as the
Ford Escape, have fueled this awareness of hybrid technology to more than 80
percent of new-vehicle buyers surveyed. These first-in-market introductions
have given Honda and Toyota the clear lead among new-vehicle buyers as the
most technologically advanced manufacturers in the development of
environmentally friendly vehicles.
The results of this consumer-based study support the sales outlook
outlined in a separate J.D. Power and Associates hybrid vehicle forecast, in
which hybrid sales are expected to increase dramatically in the next few
years and approach 500,000 vehicles per year shortly after mid-decade.
"We expect to see as many as 20 hybrid vehicle models, including
cars, trucks and SUVs, at dealerships and on the road in the next four to
five years," Malesh said.
The Hybrid Vehicle Consumer Acceptance Study is based on responses
from more than 5,200 recent new-vehicle buyers.
Headquartered in Agoura Hills, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is
a global marketing information services firm operating in key business
sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and
customer satisfaction. J.D. Power
and Associates can be accessed through the Internet at www.jdpa.com