Gas mileage is once again becoming an important factor in deciding which new vehicle to purchase, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2003 Escaped Shopper Study(SM) released September 3. Gas mileage is now fifth on the list of reasons new-vehicle buyers reject one model over another-up from 13th in 2002. "Between the concerns over the Middle East, high gas prices and the growing trend toward larger and more powerful engines, it is not surprising that 15 percent of new-vehicle buyers cite gas mileage as a reason for rejecting a vehicle they once considered buying," said Chris Denove, partner at J.D. Power and Associates. The study, which examines the reasons new-vehicle shoppers reject vehicles they consider, finds that shoppers are most concerned with price-related factors, making them likely to purchase the least expensive model on their consideration list. "Brands such as Hyundai, Kia, Suzuki and Mitsubishi are rarely considered exclusively, however, they are able to maintain high closing ratios when they're cross-shopped against other makes," Denove said. "Such brands tend to place a greater emphasis on competitive pricing and value, and that is one of the strongest lures in the market." Incentives continue to play a significant role in the decision to purchase or reject vehicles. Among all vehicles rejected, 16 percent are rejected for lack of sufficient rebates/incentives, and 14 percent are rejected because they do not offer sufficiently attractive financing incentives. Domestic manufacturers appear to be satisfying customers with incentive packages. The percent of domestic vehicles rejected for lack of financing incentives has dropped from 15 percent in 2001 to 12 percent in 2003. "Many manufacturers that have ratcheted up their incentive marketing dollars to combat a down economy have found themselves in an incentive spiral that has proven difficult to exit," Denove said. "Consumers are likely to expect incentives such as low-interest financing, particularly from domestic manufacturers, for years to come." The 2003 Escaped Shopper Study is based on responses from 32,330 new-vehicle owners. Top 10 Reasons Cited by Vehicle Owners for Rejecting Particular Models 1. Total price too high 2. Total monthly payment too high 3. Didn't like exterior styling/design 4. Not available with rebates/incentives like vehicle ultimately purchased 5. Wanted better gas mileage 6. Concerned about reliability 7. Not available with special low-interest financing 8. Didn't like look/design of interior 9. Salespeople/dealer didn't act professionally 10. Vehicle was too small Source: J.D. Power and Associates About J.D. Power and Associates Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction.