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Consumers Open To Hybrids But Wary Of Costs

by on May.12, 2009

A new survey from Harris Interactive indicates that more than four in five U.S. adults believe the United States must become a leader in hybrid vehicles.

Conveniently enough, the survey, which was commissioned by Johnson Controls, the nation’s largest maker of lead-acid batteries, the survey also found that 84% said the government should support the advancement of battery technology in this country.

The study, however, also suggested that consumers have developed a relatively sophisticated appreciation of both the benefits and pitfalls of owning hybrid or battery-driven vehicles.

Johnson Controls commissioned the survey, “Powering the United States Hybrid Vehicle Industry,” to understand consumer sentiment regarding hybrid vehicles and to gain insight into the challenges and opportunities for broad market acceptance in the United States.   

The online survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted in March 2009. Eighty one percent of the respondents saw hybrid technology as way to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Another 67% said development of new battery technology in the U.S. would help create jobs, and 64% indicated that more effective batteries could reduce the impact of automobiles on the environment.

In addition, the Johnson Control survey also found that 90% of U.S. adults are open to choosing a hybrid if they were in the market for a new vehicle. However, they also perceive major obstacles to such a purchase, notably cost.

Four of five respondents think financial barriers such as purchase price and/or insufficient cost savings prevent people from buying a hybrid car. At the same time, most, 84%, see incentives and tax credits as an effective way to encourage consumers to purchase hybrid cars.

“The survey makes one message abundantly clear: despite recognizing the importance of hybrid technology and the role of government support, consumers need costs to come down for the hybrid industry to thrive,” said Kim Metcalf-Kupres, Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing for Johnson Controls.

“The survey also suggests a need for consumer education, because most people admit they don’t really grasp how hybrids work or understand the differences between the types of hybrid applications that are available,” she added.

In addition to cost barriers, many consumers may also think hybrid vehicle performance should be equivalent or better than that of a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle.

When asked what might prevent people from buying a hybrid car, 49% of adults cite reluctance to sacrifice features such as size and horsepower, and 42% express concerns that hybrids might mean inferior performance, lack of speed, or a poor driving experience. Further, nearly half, 47%, believe lack of understanding about hybrids in general prevents people from buying them, and an even greater number, 59%, have no idea what the distinctions are between different types of hybrids.

“That U.S. consumers are open to the idea of purchasing a hybrid bodes well for the development of a U.S. hybrid industry,” said Alex Molinaroli, President, Power Solutions, for Johnson Controls.

“However, it’s evident that success in building the industry will depend on making it easier for consumers to buy hybrids. We’re doing good things in the United States to stimulate the industry, but in the long run, it will be broad market acceptance and scale that makes it sustainable.”

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2 Responses to “Consumers Open To Hybrids But Wary Of Costs”

  1. gregory forrey says:

    There is another cost that no one talks about the batteries of these hybrids do not last much longer than 8 to 10 years. No scrap yard will take these cars with batteries in them, so you either pay for new batteries or pay to scrap it

    • tdb says:

      Actually, Gregory, the batteries are worth a fair bit, even at the end of their lifecycle. Toyota, for example, is offering consumers — or junkyards — $200 for used batteries. And there are scrap specialists, according to Mark Templin, General Manager of Lexus, who are offering more than that.
      Paul A. Eisenstein
      Bureau Chief,